Freakonomics

I listened to the Freakonomics audio book recently. Talk about a page turner (or in this case a CD changer). The topics are scattered but the book is surpisingly engaging. I found myself arriving at work in the morning and sitting in my car until a chapter ended.

The tag line is “A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything,” and the book details several studies performed by economist Steven D. Levitt involving everything from abortion to the KKK. Levitt analyzed mountains of data and arrived at some shocking, but well-reasoned conclusions.

Looking at four years of detailed financial records for a crack gang reveals that the local drug dealer makes less than minimum wage…around $3.30 per hour. Levitt describes how teachers helped students cheat on standardized tests and how it was discovered through the analyses of answer patterns. And he discusses the statistical circumstances that lead sumo wrestlers to throw matches.

With many of his conclusions controversial (such as abortion rates affecting crime rates) it’s obvious Levitt has taken great pains to prepare his side of the argument. Over and over I found my skepticism washed away as he addressed one possible flaw after another, until finally there was nothing I could do but agree with him.

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