Archives for University of Chicago

Goodbye, Turkey Sandwich

Last week, I was out in Chicago for a couple of days working with Levitt. We had lunch at the Booth School cafeteria (with its great soda design) — or at least we tried to have lunch. There was a nice-looking case of sandwiches, and I asked the guy behind the counter for one of the turkey-cranberry sandwiches.

“No,” he said. “I can’t sell it to you.”

“Why not?” I asked.

“We’re closing. I can’t sell it to you.”

It was about 2:32 p.m. on a weekday afternoon. The sandwich I was eyeing was one of maybe 15 or 20 in the case. And then the guy behind the counter drags over a big trash can and throws my sandwich into it, and then all the other sandwiches too. It might have been my imagination — or maybe just hunger — but he seemed to take delight in throwing away the food for which I was ready to pay full price. Read More »

Are Sex Offender Laws Backfiring?

A pair of new studies raise questions as to whether sex offender registries and community notification laws actually reduce recidivism of sex offenders, or even lead to lower sex crime rates overall. Both are published in the University of Chicago’s Journal of Law and Economics.

The first study by Jonah Rockoff of Columbia Business School, and J.J. Prescott, a law professor at the University of Michigan, parses out the effectiveness of the two basic types of sex offender laws. While they find that the registration of released sex offenders is associated with a 13% decrease in crime from the sample mean, public notification laws proved to be counterproductive, and led to slightly higher rates of sex crime because of what the authors refer to as a “relative utility effect”:

Our results suggest that community notification deters first-time sex offenders, but may increase recidivism by registered offenders by increasing the relative attractiveness of criminal behavior. This finding is consistent with work by criminologists showing that notification may contribute to recidivism by imposing social and financial costs on registered sex offenders and, as a result, making non-criminal activity relatively less attractive.
…[C]onvicted sex offenders become more likely to commit crime when their information is made public because the associated psychological, social, or financial costs make crime more attractive.

Read More »

How Tough a Place Is the University of Chicago?

Just about every university has an alumni magazine, and they all follow the same tried-and-true recipe: highly partisan stories touting the wonderful accomplishments of the faculty, students, athletics, and alumni.

I had always thought of my university’s alumni magazine as being cut from the same cloth.

Until I read the most recent issue, that is. Read More »

A SuperFreakonomics Quiz: Name This University of Chicago Alum

I ran into someone the other day whom I had never met and who fit the following five criteria:

1. He/she attended the University of Chicago.
2. He/she is still alive.
3. He/she is a whole lot smarter than I am.
4. He/she is a whole lot more famous than I am.
5. He/she is even more controversial/notorious than I am. Read More »


Tom Hundley had a long piece in the Chicago Tribune on Sunday describing the influence of the University of Chicago on Barack Obama. The most interesting part comes near the end, where law professors Cass Sunstein and Richard Epstein spar over whether Obama really believes in free markets. Sunstein says, “As Nixon went to China, […] Read More »

A Naked Economist in Washington?

Charles Whelan, author of Naked Economics and a lecturer in public policy at the University of Chicago, launched his bid for the U.S. House of Representatives. Read More »

The Financial Crisis and the "Chicago School of Economics"

On, John Lippert presents an interesting and extremely well-reported article on the financial crisis’s impact on the thinking of Chicago economists. It does a nice job of capturing the multifaceted nature of the institution, with people on all sides of the issues. I absolutely love the following excerpt, which better captures what it is […] Read More »

Serious Academic Debate

Only at the University of Chicago. A while back, the university made plans to start a Milton Friedman Institute. It has been the source of some controversy. The latest installment is reported in the student newspaper, the Chicago Maroon. The beginning of the article is a little boring — but definitely read to the end, […] Read More »