Archives for Gary Becker



Outsiders by Design: A New Freakonomics Radio Podcast


What does it mean to pursue something that everyone else think is nuts? And what does it take to succeed? That’s what this week’s episode is about. It’s called “Outsiders By Design.”  (You can subscribe to the podcast at iTunes, get the RSS feed, or listen via the media player above. You can also read the transcript, which includes credits for the music you’ll hear in the episode.)

You’ll hear about three radical thinkers whose lives didn’t proceed in a perfectly straight line. In each case, their work was ridiculed or ignored — but ultimately, they triumphed. This podcast was inspired by the recent death of the economist Gary Becker, whose firm belief in the rational choice model led him to publish works like “Crime and Punishment: An Economic Approach” and “A Theory on the Allocation of Time.” Read More »



Gary Becker, 1930-2014

I’m so sorry to have to write that Gary Becker passed away on Saturday, at the age of 83.  Gary was not only the most creative and influential economist of the last 50 years, but also a kind and gentle person, a mentor, and a close friend.

Others will write at length about Gary’s contributions to economics.  I want to say just a few things in that regard.  About ten years ago, Pierre-Andre Chiappori and I analyzed which economic theorists have had the greatest impact on empirical research by looking at the key motivating citations in papers published in top journals in recent years.  Becker was by far the most influential theorist by our metric.  What was most remarkable was that thirteen different works of his were cited; no one else had more than three or four.  He published influential research in every decade from the 1950s to the present – incredible longevity.  No one else had  longevity like that. Read More »



Gary Becker in a Web-Chat, Interviewed by Dubner

Not long ago, Levitt solicited your questions for the economist Gary Becker. Dubner interviewed Becker for a new project called Expert Insight (see BusinessWeek writeup here), whereby various “experts” — in economics, poker, golf, etc. — can be booked for web-chats. Becker is, as always, fascinating and far-ranging, covering everything from immigration policy and organ […] Read More »



Nobel Laureate Gary Becker Takes Your Questions

More than any other economist, Nobel laureate Gary Becker has inspired and shaped the work of Steven Levitt. Here’s your chance to submit a question for Stephen Dubner to ask Becker when they sit down for an upcoming video chat. Fire away in the comments section. Read More »



Taking a Course From Gary Becker

Up until now, the only way to take a course taught by Gary Becker was to be a student at the University of Chicago.

Thanks to the heroic efforts of three students –Dana Chandler, Salvador Navarro Lozano, and Jorge Garcia — that has changed. Read More »



Addicted to Rationality

Here’s another hilarious xtranormal send-up – this time lampooning the Becker/Murphy theory of rational addiction. Read More »



Follow the Gary Becker Decision Tree

One of my favorite images from the new Illustrated SuperFreakonomics (beautifully designed by No. 17) is a decision tree showing how Gary Becker, a young man who was better at handball than math, nevertheless chose math and became the Nobel-winning economist whose research made possible books like ours. Read More »



Will Your Kids Be Better Off Than You?

Gary Becker and Richard Posner debate a timeless question: Will the next generation be better off than their parents’ generation? Becker’s take: “America has always been optimistic about its future. The decline in such optimism during the past couple of decades is understandable, but highly regrettable. The best way to restore this optimism is to promote faster economic growth. That is feasible with the right policies, but will not happen automatically. Even America has no destiny to be optimistic about the future without important redirection of various public priorities.” Read More »