Archives for Steven D. Levitt



Help Wanted: Techno Superstars Looking to Work on Some Freakonomics-Inspired Start-ups in Chicago

I’ve got a lot of smart friends, and they come up with some pretty good ideas.  (I even have an idea myself once in a while!)

Occasionally, these ideas take the form of potential internet businesses.  Although we have incubated some interesting businesses up until now, there is too much talking and not enough doing.

It is time for that to change, and we want to open up  a little Chicago office to pursue these ideas.

We need some superhuman talent to make it a success. 

If you think you have what we are looking for, send a resume to stelios@greatestgood.com, and let’s get the fun started!



Freakonomics Goes to College, Part 1: A New Freakonomics Radio Podcast

Our latest Freakonomics Radio podcast is called “Freakonomics Goes to College, Part 1.” The gist: what is the true value these days of a college education?

(You can download/subscribe at iTunes, get the RSS feed, listen via the media player above, or read the transcript below.)

As you can tell from the title, this is the first episode of a two-parter. There is so much to say about college that we could have done ten episodes on the topic, but we held ourselves back to two.

The key guests in this first episode are, in order of appearance:

+ Allen Ezell, a former FBI agent who co-authored the book Degree Mills: The Billion-dollar Industry That Has Sold over a Million Fake Diplomas.

+ Karl Rove, the former senior adviser and deputy chief of staff for President George W. Bush. Rove, it turns out, is not a college graduate. He is, however, a published author — of Courage and Consequence: My Life as a Conservative in the Fight.

+ David Card, an economist at Berkeley who has done a lot of research and writing on the value of education.

+ And our own Steve Levitt, who has this to say about college: Read More »



Legacy of a Jerk: A New Freakonomics Radio Podcast

Our latest podcast is called “Legacy of a Jerk.” You can download/subscribe at iTunes, get the RSS feed, listen via the media player above, or read the transcript here.

The gist: what happens to your reputation when you’re no longer around to defend it?

You’ll hear a variety of stories, and theories, about legacy in general and the legacy of jerks in particular. We discuss “strategic jerkitude”; the ancient injunction against speaking ill of the dead; and the fascinating, complicated legacy of Steve Jobs.

Among the highlights:

The death of a Pennsylvania woman named Carole “Fritzi” Miller Roberson and how lives like hers live on at Legacy.com, where roughly 5,000 new obituaries are posted every day. Read More »



What’s Wrong With Cash for Grades? A New Marketplace Podcast

Our latest Freakonomics Radio on Marketplace podcast is called “What’s Wrong With Cash for Grades?”

(You can download/subscribe at iTunes, get the RSS feed, listen via the media player above, or read the transcript below.)

In it, Steve Levitt talks to Kai Ryssdal about whether it’s effective to pay kids to do well in school. Levitt, along with John ListSusanne Neckermann, and Sally Sadoff, recently wrote up a working paper (PDF here) based on their field experiments in Chicago schools. Levitt blogged about the paper earlier; here’s the Atlantic‘s take. Read More »



Levitt Is Ready for the Senior Tour

Steve Levitt has made no secret of his desire to become a good-enough golfer to someday play the Champions Tour, for players 50 and older. 

After watching his amazing performance last week, I now believe Levitt does stand a chance of landing on a senior professional tour. But not in golf.

I was out in Chicago for a couple of days to work with Levitt. After a long day, we went out for dinner at a place called Seven Ten. It has food, beer, and bowling alleys — just a couple of them and nothing fancy. Old-school bowling.

After the meal, I tried to get Levitt to bowl a game or two. He wasn’t interested. Said he was worried about hurting his golf swing. (Puh-leeze.) He said he’d watch me bowl. I can’t think of anything less fun than bowling alone except having someone sit and watch you bowl alone. So I lied and told him that bowling would probably be good for his golf swing — the heavy ball could loosen up his joints, yada-yada, etc. 

He finally agreed when I suggested the loser pay for dinner. Read More »



The Days of Wine and Mouses: A New Freakonomics Radio Podcast

Season 2, Episode 1

We have just released a new series of five one-hour Freakonomics Radio specials to public-radio stations across the country. (Check here for your local station.) These new shows are what might best be called “mashupdates” — that is, mashups of earlier podcasts that have also been updated with new interviews, etc.

If you are a charter subscriber to our podcast (remember this one on the dangers of safety, or this one on the obesity epidemic?), then some of this material will be familiar to you. If you are one of the people who have heard these new shows on the radio and wondered when they’d hit the podcast stream — well, that time is now. We’ll be releasing all five hours over the next ten weeks.

This first episode is called “The Days of Wine and Mouses.” (Download/subscribe at iTunes, get the RSS feed, listen via the media player above, or read the transcript below.) Here’s what you’ll be hearing:

When you take a sip of Cabernet, what are you tasting? The grape? The tannins? The oak barrel? Or is it the price? Believe it or not, the most dominant flavor may be the dollars. Read More »



How Biased Is Your Media?: A New Freakonomics Radio Podcast

When it comes to politics and media, the left argues that the right is more biased than the left while the right argues that the left is more biased than the right. Who’s right?

That’s what we try to answer in our latest podcast, “How Biased Is Your Media?” (You can download/subscribe at iTunes, get the RSS feed, listen live via the media player above, or read the transcript below.) In a way, this episode is a follow-up to a podcast we put out a few months ago called “The Truth Is Out There, Isn’t It?,” which examined how we choose to believe what we believe about a variety of important issues. In this episode, we apply that same idea in a small-bore fashion, going after media bias. Read More »



10,000 hours later: the PGA Tour?

Last spring, I jokingly (okay, maybe half-jokingly) wrote about my quest to make the Champions Tour, the professional golf tour for people over the age of 50.  In that post, I made reference to the ideas of Anders Ericsson, an old friend whom Dubner and I wrote about in our New York Times column back in 2006, and whose ideas later became the centerpiece of a number of popular books.  Anders is the one who thinks that talent is unimportant. Oversimplifying a bit, he argues that with 10,000 hours of the right kind of deliberate practice, more or less anyone can become more or less world-class at anything. I’ve spent 5,000 hours practicing golf, so if I could just find the time for 5,000 more, I should be able to compete with the pros. Or at least that is what the theory says.  My scorecards seem to be telling a different story!

It turns out I’ve got a kindred spirit in this pursuit, only this guy is dead serious.  A few years back, twenty-something Dan McLaughlin decided he wanted to play on the PGA tour.  Never mind that he had only played golf once or twice in his life and had done quite poorly those times.  He knew the 10,000 hour argument, and he thought it would be fun to give it a test.  So he quit his job, found a golf coach, and has devoted his life to golf ever since.  So far he is 2,500 hours into his 10,000 hour quest, which he chronicles at thedanplan.com. Read More »