Freaky good read

July 12, 2005

Product Image: Freakonomics : A Rogue Economist Explores the ...
My rating: 4 out of 5

It’s pretty much the most hyped up book of late, so I finally broke down, bought a copy, and read it this past weekend while traveling to/from Seattle.

Overall, I liked the book. It’s an extremely easy read and most of the topics are intriguing. I especially like the care the authors take in explaining the difference between correlation and causality. I think too often people get these two concepts mixed up.

I also enjoyed the theme of identifying incentives and trying to rationalize people’s motives. I believe this technique can be a great tool for both sociologists and economists.

However, I did have two beefs with the book:

  1. After debunking a lot of other studies, their assertion that abortion decreases the crime rate hinges on the fact that after abortion was legalized the birthrate dropped 6%. How does this explain the double digit percentage drop in crime rate year over year in the 90s? I’m not sure the numbers add up…
  2. The chapter exploring correlation of names and child outcome almost bored me to tears.

All in all, I’d recommend it – if nothing else, you’ll be able to join the conversation around the water cooler 😉

Freaky good read
Book
4 out of 5
Freakonomics : A Rogue Economist Explores the …
http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/redirect?tag=99zeros-20&path=tg/detail/-/006073132X?v=glance

It’s pretty much the most hyped up book of late, so I finally broke down, bought a copy, and read it this past weekend while traveling to/from Seattle.

Overall, I liked the book. It’s an extremely easy read and most of the topics are intriguing. I especially like the care the authors take in explaining the difference between correlation and causality. I think too often people get these two concepts mixed up.

I also enjoyed the theme of identifying incentives and trying to rationalize people’s motives. I believe this technique can be a great tool for both sociologists and economists.

However, I did have two beefs with the book:
<ol>
<li>After debunking a lot of other studies, their assertion that abortion decreases the crime rate hinges on the fact that after abortion was legalized the birthrate dropped 6%. How does this explain the double digit percentage drop in crime rate year over year in the 90s? I’m not sure the numbers add up…</li>
<li>The chapter exploring correlation of names and child outcome almost bored me to tears.</li>
</ol>

All in all, I’d recommend it – if nothing else, you’ll be able to join the conversation around the water cooler 😉

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No Responses Yet to “Freaky good read”

  1. Devin Reams Says:

    I must agree with number 2. I was sitting there wondering why this was somehow interesting.. I realized it wasn’t.

    As far as the crime rate drop, perhaps it can be argued that abortion was the tipping point that started the drop in crime (kids who werent born couldnt create crimes, crimes which in-turn would instigate more, etc)…

    ..does this count as the water cooler?

  2. David Yang Says:

    Hey Mark – I’ve been meaning to check this book out. In college I actually read the original study that links the drop in crime to the legalization of abortion. One possible answer to your question could be explained by the network effect. If 20% of the cohorts in a single generation caused 80% of the crime, then a 6% drop in population could cause a double digit drop in crime rates. Just an idea…

  3. markjen Says:

    Hi Devin and David – You guys might be right about the 6% drop accounting for a majority of the crime. I wish the author had detailed a stronger correlation between those two numbers though.

    With the reitiring of 2 supreme court justices upon us, maybe in 20 years we’ll get to see whether Levitt was right or not 😉


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