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Book Review: Freakonomics

October 28th, 2006 No comments

Freakonomics is a collection of stories using econometric analysis to explore real-world issues. It is a fun journey through these phenomena, but it is not a grand, unified theory of economics. Rather, Levitt’s only unified point throughout the book is that, if you take the right perspective, any problem can be explained.

All of the chapters are independent of each other like a collection of short stories with an introduction, so you can read the ones you are interested in and skip others. Personally, I think the Introduction, the first chapter titled, “What do Schoolteachers and Sumo Wrestlers Have in Common?”, and chapter 4, “Where Have All the Criminals Gone?” are his most interesting.

“Where Have All the Criminals Gone?” is an exploration of why crime in the United States peaked in 1989, and steadily declined thereafter. His explanation is that abortion was made legal in the United States in 1973, and so many disadvantaged children that would have become criminals when they turned 16 were never born. His argument is convincing, and worth reading.

In conclusion, Freakonomics is not a book that will change your life, but it is a fun read. I recommend checking it out from the library and reading the chapters you find interesting, but don’t bother buying it. That stupid orange cover doesn’t look good on the shelf anyway.

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