Freakonomics

  • by Steven D. Levitt, Stephen J. Dubner
  • Narrated by Stephen J. Dubner
  • 6 hrs and 55 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

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 abortionaffect the rate of violent crime?These may not sound like typical questions for an economist 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 the conventional wisdom on its head. Thus the new field of study contained in this audiobook: Freakonomics.Levitt and co-author Stephen J. 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 working of a crack gang....The truth about real-estate agents....The secrets of the Klu Klux Klan.What unites all these stories is a belief that the modern world is even more intriguing than we think. All it takes is a new way of looking, and Freakonomics will redefine the way we view the modern world.

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What the Critics Say

"Refreshingly accessible and engrossing." (Publishers Weekly)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Good, but be careful

As a PhD statistician, I love a good data-driven story. Increasing, people in politics, business, and academia are looking for decisions that are based on what the data say. Leavitt's research is engaging and accessible and I, for the most part, enjoyed this book.

HOWEVER, without exception, Leavitt presents his findings as gospel and continually fails to acknowledge the limitations of his methods and his data. He mentions his use of linear regression to obtain his results, but fails to mention the limitations of this method (e.g., results are probabilistic, results are based on model assumptions which may be entirely incorrect). His results obtained from this method sometimes also appear to tell too convenient of a story and seem to be cherry-picked. Moreover, all his results are based on single data sets and may not be as universal as he would like. Finally, he often takes one result (e.g., reading to your kids does not affect their standardized test scores) and makes huge, sweeping generalizations that lead you to believe that reading to your kids doesn't have any affect on any outcome of interest and that you're a bad (or naive) parent for even trying.

These are dangerous practices, though I can see why he does what he does - making all sort of caveats would water-down his findings and make his book less sensational. Nevertheless, he runs the risk of misleading his readers. Judging from the comments posted here so far from people who assume these conclusions are certain, I would say he's succeeded in this endeavor.
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- Shackleton

Interesting yet lacks unity

Bottom line - I recommend this book. It is full of interesting threads comparing one part of life to another. The book tries to show how human behavior is governed less by morality than by economics. The reader/listener must be willing to accept that economics is more than the study of finances and as explained is understandable.

There are parts of this book that will disturb some listeners. The idea that crime reduction is primarily the result of Roe v. Wade is difficult for some to accept.

Other topics include parenting for childhood success in school, racial bias in baby names, real estate agents who sell out, teachers who cheat on tests, and the anatomy of drug dealing.

My biggest problem with the book is that it lacks a unifying theme. In fact, near the end the author admits to this and gives us little to tie it all together. It contains some very interesting concepts that I will listen to again. Perhaps then will I start to see their connections to each other.

One irony I cannot fault the author for is more Audible.com's fault. The author spends a good deal of time describing which parenting traits impact their child's academic performance and which do not. One argument he makes is that the amount of time a parent reads to their child does not affect that child's ability to do well in school. Whether or not you agree, the irony occurs at the end when Audible inserts an advertisement lauding the significance to a child's academic success as dependent on hearing others read books to them. I found this amusing.
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- Greg

Book Details

  • Release Date: 06-14-2007
  • Publisher: HarperAudio