Which is more dangerous, a gun or a swimming pool? What do
schoolteachers and sumo wrestlers have in common? Why do drug
dealers still live with their moms? How much do parents really
matter? How did the legalization of abortion affect the rate of
These may not sound like typical questions for an econo-mist to
ask. But Steven D. Levitt is not a typical economist. He is a
much-heralded scholar who studies the riddles of everyday
life--from cheating and crime to sports and child-rearing--and
whose conclusions turn conventional wisdom on its head.
"Freakonomics" is a groundbreaking collaboration between Levitt
and Stephen J. Dubner, an award-winning author and journalist. They
usually begin with a mountain of data and a simple question. Some
of these questions concern life-and-death issues; others have an
admittedly freakish quality. Thus the new field of study contained
in this book: freakonomics.
Through forceful storytelling and wry insight, Levitt and Dubner
show that economics is, at root, the study of incentives--how
people get what they want, or need, especially when other people
want or need the same thing. In "Freakonomics," they explore the
hidden side of . . . well, everything. The inner workings of a
crack gang. The truth about real-estate agents. The myths of
campaign finance. The telltale marks of a cheating schoolteacher.
The secrets of the Klu Klux Klan.
What unites all these stories is a belief that the modern world,
despite a great deal of complexity and downright deceit, is not
impenetrable, is not unknowable, and--if the right questions are
asked--is even more intriguing than we think. All it takes is a new
way of looking.
"Freakonomics" establishes this unconventional premise: If
morality represents how we would like the world to work, then
economics represents how it actually does work. It is true that
readers of this book will be armed with enough riddles and stories
to last a thousand cocktail parties. But "Freakonomics" can provide
more than that. It will literally redefine the way we view the
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