Freakonomics


A friend saw me reading The Tipping Point and said that if I liked that book I'd also like Freakonomics. So I bought the book and read it in about 3 days. It was extremely similar to The Tipping Point. It almost sounded as if the exact author wrote it. They cover interesting social phenomena and work to explain why certain events happen the way they do. One overlapping point each book is that they both covered the huge crime drop that NY experienced in the 90s. However, they had completely different takes on it.

About: Which is more dangerous, a gun or a swimming pool? What do schoolteachers and sumo wrestlers have in common? How much do parents really matter? These may not sound like typical questions for an economist to ask. But Steven D. Levitt is not the typical economist. He studies the riddles of everyday life - from cheating and crime to parenting and sports - and reaches conclusions that turn conventional wisdom on its head. Freakonomics is a groundbreaking collaboration between Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner, an award-winning author and journalist. They set out to explore the inner workings of a crack gang, the truth about real estate agents, the secrets of the Ku Klux Klan, and much more. Through forceful storytelling and wry insight, they 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.

Quotes:

Page 63, "Had the Internet been around when Stetson Kennedy was attacking the Klan he probably would have been blogging his brains out." - every time I read that I laugh.

Page 67, "If your doctor suggests that you have angioplasty - even though some current research suggests that angioplasty often does little to prevent heart attacks - you aren't likely to think that the doctor is using his informational advantage to make a few thousand collars for himself or his buddy. But as David Hillis, an interventional cardiologist at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, explained to The New York Times, a doctor may have the same economic incentives as a car salesman or a funeral director or a mutual fund manager: "If you're an invasive cardiologist and Joe Smith, the local internist, is sending you patients, and if you tell them they don't need the procedure, pretty soon Joe Smith doesn't send patients anymore."

Page 68, "The study found that a real estate agent keeps her own house on the market an average ten extra days, waiting for a better offer, and sells it for over 3 percent more than your house - or $10,000 on the sale of a $300,000 house. That's $10,000 going into her pocket that does not go into yours." If you plan on buying or selling a house soon, definitely read the research they found - so good to know.

Page 79, discusses online dating websites and how a very large portion of users consider themselves above average looking "which suggests that the typical online dater is either a fabulist, a narcissist, or simply resistant to the meaning of "average." hahaha

Page 88, "Women's rights advocates, for instance, have hyped the incidence of sexual assault, claiming that one in three American women will in her lifetime be victim of rape or attempted rape. (The actual figure is more like one in eight - but the advocates know it would take a callous person to publicly dispute their claims)."

Page 102, "You stand a greater chance of dying while dealing crack in a Chicago housing projust than you do while sitting on death row in Texas."

Page 112, "Black Americans were hurt more by crack cocaine than by any other single cause since Jim Crow."

Page 131, "On a per capita basis, Switzerland has more firearms than just about any other country, and yet it is one of the safest places in the world. In other words, guns to do not cause crime."

Page 150, "Risks that you can control are much less a source of outrage than risks that are out of your control, Sandman said."

Page 152, "The likelihood of any given person being killed in a terrorist attack is far smaller than the likelihood that the same person will clog up his arteries with fatty food and die of heart disease. But a terrorist attack happens now; death by heart disease is some distant, quiet catastrophe. Terrorist acts lie beyond our control; french fries do not."

Page 178, "But it isn't so much a matter of what you do as a parent; it's who you are."

Page 205, "But as a high-end name is adopted en masse, high-end parents begin to abandon it. Eventually, it is considered so common that even lower-end parents may not want it, whereby it falls out of the rotation entirely. The lower-end parents, meanwhile, go looking for the next name that the upper-end parents have broken in." "It should also be noted that many girls' names, including Shirely, Carol, Leslie, Hilary, Renee, Stacy, and Tracy began life as boys' names, but girls' names almost never cross over to boys."

Other things I learned:

The KKK named its "bible" the Kloran. Nobody is sure why it's so similar to the name of Islam's most holy book.

Ms. McCorvey, who was Roe in Roe v. Wade, later renounced her allegiance to legalized abortion and became a pro-life activist.

The authors of this book strongly believe that large decrease in crime that the US saw in the 90's is due to legalized abortion. It's a controversial statement to make, which I'm not sure if I agree with, but they provide a lot of compelling information. "Decades of studies have shown that a child born into an adverse family environment is far more likely than other children to become a criminal. And the millions of women most likely to have an abortion int he wake of Roe v. Wade - poor, unmarried, and teenage mothers for whom illegal abortions had been too expensive or too hard to get - were often models of adversity. They were the very women whose children, if born, would have been much more likely than average to become criminals."

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