Tomorrow’s Economists Today

From a reader we’ll call E.K.:

I thought you might get a kick out of this photo of my kids, who are big fans of your work. The little one is 6, the older one (who already read Freakonomics) is 10. They had gotten up early Sunday morning and were hanging out reading while we (the parents) slept in.


When pressed for more details, E.K. replied:

My husband is K.C. and the kids are Jacob (10) and Jared (6). We live in Connecticut, and K.C. commutes into New York City to work as a portfolio manager. I am a stay-at-home mom with a medical degree.

A few months ago, I thought Jacob would like reading Freakonomics, which he thoroughly enjoyed. After he finished that, I thought he might also like Malcolm Gladwell, so he is now in the midst of Blink.

Our copy of Freakonomics was lying around the house, so Jared started to get interested as well. To be honest, he hasn’t read all of it yet; I think right now he is most interested in the section of the book that lists the popularity of names and accompanying average education level of the mother.

Like many suburban kids, they are overscheduled. True to the stereotype of Korean-American mothers, I have my kids taking a number of instruments: Jacob plays cello and electric guitar, and Jared plays piano, guitar, and drums. They also enjoy dancing (breakdancing for Jacob and hip-hop for Jared). In addition, Jacob plays tennis and does tae kwon do. At home, they enjoy reading, playing on the computer, and chess. Jared is also a huge reality TV fan; he loves Top Chef, Project Runway, American Idol, and So You Think You Can Dance. Jacob particularly enjoys game shows. They both like to play cards; we recently taught them how to play poker and 21. Their betting strategies are wildly divergent but can be equally effective.

I have to share a funny story with you. When I told/asked Jacob about being included in your blog, at first he seemed pleased, but then a slight cloud passed over his face, and he said, “Well, I don’t want to be recognized …” Whereupon my husband reassured him that he would not be followed by paparazzi.

A while back, our publisher was interested in putting out a Freakonomics-for-kids version. Our main argument against it was that it was already easy enough for kids to read. This may be the best proof we’ve ever had of our argument — although, from E.K.’s note, I have a feeling her family may be a tad above-average.


Weird, a child asked not to have his photo put up on a highly-read Web page and both the parent and the editor refused to honor his request. Nonconsensual blogging. This concern may seem like a trivial joke, but look for this issue to increase in coming years.


Right on Sunshine!


I've wondered why there hasn't been a "Freakonomics for Kids" before, most kids aren't like Jacob and Jared (in my experience at least, I'm 26 with no kids though).

Part of the appeal of Freakonomics is the way it talked about slightly taboo things with a mainstream approach. It'll be hard to have the same effect while 'toning it down'* for a younger audience...

*not to say I'd prefer a more censored approach, just that many parents wouldn't be stoked on similar content for their kids, depending on age of course.


just be careful,

you know what could happen and has happened to other childhood stars, olympic heros when they get too good too early in their respective fields.

proceed with caution: don't push luck or talent too early or too often


Please do publish a Freakonomics for kids. Financial literacy can't be learned too soon, and it isn't taught in school. It's an essential tool for survival and you're uniquely suited to meet the need.


I'd love to see them also reading some Hazlitt & Sowell. ;-)


I thought this to be very interesting. For when I was six or even ten I would not have imagined myself reading a book on economics. A parent's job and interests really does influence how a child grows up.
I am curious to see how they will grow up. For all we know, they could be the future economists that fix the current problems. Yet, they could take a completly different road. But I am sure economics will always remain a part of their interests.


I'm interested in other books they might have read. Gladwell's other book, "The Tipping Point," is equally fascinating to me, but might not catch their interest. I would also suggest "The Lexus and the Olive Tree" by Thomas L. Friedman for Jacob.


and apropos the reading, looks like they buy the books at retail (looks like a costco tag, natch). good for the top and bottom line.


@Sunshine: It's already happening. A friend of mine was heavily criticized when she asked people not to tag her in photos or videos on facebook. I found her request totally legitimate - but then again, I am not a big fan of pointless self-promotion on the net.


Good for E.K. kids, they started early to learn how not to run the economy.
In a couple of days they should be able to run the Fed and the NY stock exchange


I think the rest of the story was left out - I'm sure if Jacob still didn't want to be pictured on the blog, his parents & this blog would have honoured that. The point was that at first he thought it may lead to 'fame' of dramatic proportions... thereby reminding us that although he's clearly very intelligent, he's still a child with a somewhat limited understanding of the external world.


maybe freakonomics is already the kid's book?


Korean parents really need to chill out. Don't burn your kids out so early or they'll be the next wave of Korean-American Ivy league students who flunk out their first year!

PS: SJD, I'd love for your analysis on the aforementioned topic.


Another vote for a Freakonomics for Kids book. While the current Freakonomics may be easy to read, some of the topics probably aren't all that interesting to a kid. Also, I do believe it has some obscenities in it. It's been a while since I read it, but isn't the F word in there when quoting a drug dealer?

Oh, and something funny I just noticed. When typing in this text box, "Freakonomics" is red-underlined by the built-in spell checker because it's not recognized as a word. So, apparently even at the Freakonomics blog, "freakonomics" isn't a word.


I get the sense that alot of people who have commented have never actually read Freakonomics. While Freakonomics drastically changed the way I view the world, I really don't think I'm any more financially literate for having read it.


@ Luz-- You can untag yourself in photos and videos on facebook, and once you untag a particular photo no one can tag you in that photo again. True, you have to notice each photo you'e tagged in, but it emails you when someone tags you so it isn't that hard. I've had people untag themseles from photos I posted, mostly because they thought the photo was unflattering.

Still, if someone requested not to be tagged I would honor their request. But what if they want you to not post any photos of them? What do you do with group photos that they happen to be in?


How about a Methods of Econometrics for Kids book? I'm not kidding (entirely) either. It could be half Freakonomics for Kids, ie interesting examples from the real world, with the other half being composed of a non technical overview of what goes on in econometric analysis. While it wouldn't appeal to most kids, I'm sure that there would be many for whom it would open their eyes to the power statistics and maybe put them on a path towards a career with this orientation at an earlier age.

marie nancionnette

let them read the box car children!


I really hope these kids also read some children stories. I dont think they should be reading Freakonomics just yet.