Which is more dangerous, a gun or a swimming pool? What do schoolteachers and sumo wrestlers have in common? Why do drug dealers still live with their moms? How much do parents really matter? How did the legalization of abortion affect the rate of violent crime?
These may not sound like typical questions for an economist to ask. But Steven D. Levitt is not a typical economist. He is a much-heralded scholar who studies the riddles of everyday life—from cheating and crime to sports and child-rearing—and whose conclusions turn the conventional wisdom on its head.
Freakonomics is a ground-breaking collaboration between Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner, an award-winning author and journalist. They usually begin with a mountain of data and a simple, unasked question. Some of these questions concern life-and-death issues; others have an admittedly freakish quality. Thus the new field of study contained in this book: Freakonomics.
Through forceful storytelling and wry insight, Levitt and Dubner show that economics is, at root, the study of incentives—how people get what they want, or need, especially when other people want or need the same thing. In Freakonomics, they explore the hidden side of … well, everything. The inner workings of a crack gang. The truth about real-estate agents. The myths of campaign finance. The telltale marks of a cheating schoolteacher. The secrets of the Ku Klux Klan.
What unites all these stories is a belief that the modern world, despite a great deal of complexity and downright deceit, is not impenetrable, is not unknowable, and—if the right questions are asked—is even more intriguing than we think. All it takes is a new way of looking at things.
Freakonomics establishes this unconventional premise: If morality represents how we would like the world to work, then economics represents how it actually does work. It is true that readers of this book will be armed with enough riddles and stories to last a thousand cocktail parties. But Freakonomics can provide more than that. It will literally redefine the way we view the modern world.
First published in the U.S. in 2005, Freakonomics went on to sell more than 4 million copies around the world, in 35 languages. It also inspired a follow-up book, SuperFreakonomics; a high-profile documentary film; a radio program, and an award-winning blog, which has been called “the most readable economics blog in the universe.”
When Numbers Solve a Mystery
“If Indiana Jones were an economist, he’d be Steven Levitt … His genius is to take a seemingly meaningless set of numbers, ferret out the telltale pattern and recognize what it means … The cherry on top of the sundae is Mr. Levitt’s co-author, Stephen Dubner, a journalist who clearly understands what he is writing about and explains it in prose that has you chuckling one minute and gasping in amazement the next.”—The Wall Street Journal
Why the Ordinary Is Anything But
“This book is a brilliant, provocative investigation into motives: what they are, how they can be changed, and how they affect what people do. It is also a deceptively easy read: its style is so light, its tone so sunny and humorous, that it is hard to realise the extent to which the arguments in Freakonomics attack some of our most basic assumptions about the way people, and society, work.”—The Sunday Telegraph
Freak Out —The Weekly Standard
Everything He Always Wanted To Know —The New York Times
Unconventional Wisdom —TIME
“When I meet Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner in the Covent Garden Hotel, they waste no time in pulling me upstairs to the bar …‘Look,’ Dubner exclaims as he pulls open the door, ‘it’s an honesty bar. You remember the bagel man? Well, here you just pick something out and have to declare your room number. Hey, Ed you have to have something. Beer? Japanese Beer? Red Bull? I’m gonna put a stranger’s room number down.’ While Dubner is making mischief with the system, Levitt examines the prices, before declaring: ‘Interesting … Mine’s the cheapest.’ It’s an appropriate introduction to the pair: the bookish and taciturn Levitt applying economic theory to everyday life; Dubner enthusing and proselytising on his behalf. Somehow, they have conspired to make statistics almost hip.” —Telegraph
“There’s no doubt that Freakonomics did its part in glamorizing the trade. The book … is poised to inspire a slew of splashy knockoffs. Levitt and Dubner are planning a new book of their own, tentatively titled—what else?—Superfreakonomics. They’re also enjoying the spoils that come with hotness: regular TV gigs on Good Morning America, World News Tonight and Nightline, as well as a newly commissioned documentary. ‘I’m thrilled to be Levitt’s collaborator,’ says Dubner. ‘So if the price is that he’s deemed the sexy one, that’s all right with me.’” —Newsweek
An early profile by Tim Harford, the U.K.’s famed “Undercover Economist.” —Financial Times
‘Freakonomics’: A New York Times Writer and a Rogue Economist Explore the Hidden Side of Everything
A real-time Q&A with Dubner, covering the irrationality of voting and the generosity of Jon Stewart. —The Washington Post
TIME 100: The People Who Shape Our World
Levitt lands a coveted spot on Time’s list, alongside the Pope, Bill Clinton, and Daddy Yankee. —TIME
TBR: Inside the List”
Freakonomics approaches a freaky record: one of the longest-reigning books on the N.Y. Times best-seller list despite never having reached No. 1. —The New York Times
David Warsh, one of the most literate economics writers alive, lays out the factors that he believes made Freakonomics a success. —economicprincipals.com