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24 of 24 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Buy the expanded edition
This book first arrived in a blizzard of publicity back in 2005. Now 4 years on, it has been re-released in a revised and expanded edition with an extra 90 pages of bonus material (be sure to order the 336-page edition) consisting of newspaper columns and blog entries, along with a few corrections and an overall restructuring (the previous introductory magazine excerpts...
Published on 5 Jan 2009 by Steve

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65 of 70 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating and fun, but ultimately light on content
This book does two important things - it challenges the reader to really think about the causes of things, and it makes modern economic thinking interesting and accessible to the mass audience. It's also a good, fun read, and for all these reasons it should be applauded.

In this book Steven Levitt develops ideas about a number of aspects of economic and social...
Published on 25 April 2007 by Andrew Johnston


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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Not what I expected., 25 Feb 2007
By 
Robin Johnston (Michigan, USA) - See all my reviews
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I enjoyed this but what on earth is the "rogue economist" thing about? Surely looking for hidden meaning is what economists and statisticians are meant to do. Otherwise, why would we need them?

Unlike many, I read the book cover to cover. A lot of it was fascinating. Did it cover the hidden side of everything? Of course not. But the bits it did cover were often very interesting and made me think about things I hadn't in the past. Now, whether these particular subjects were worth reading about anyway depends on your point of view, but I found them sufficiently mainstream to hold my interest, and they often provided food for thought.

The one real potential "hidden side", for my money, was the abortion vs crime thing. If the author(s) have developed this conclusion without a hidden agenda then it is astonishing and the book is worth the price for that alone. If, however, the data have been manipulated to arrive at the sort of conclusion for which Andrew Lang coined his "drunks and lamp-posts" phrase, then it would be not only a great shame but also reprehensible.

I will assume nothing underhand, hence the 4 stars. Worth reading.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Interestingly Different, 3 Sep 2006
By 
Richard Stowey "Senior Project Manager" (London, England) - See all my reviews
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I found this book extremely interesting and following Steven Levitt's various approaches to finding the answers to a number of slightly out of the ordinary questions was quite intriguing, although a little drawn out towards the end of a few chapters.

The subject of the chapters included looking at why Sumo Wrestlers and Teachers cheat, why drug dealers live with their moms, how the klu klux klan was split up and why crime rate in the US dropped significantly in the 1990's.

The questions proposed and the methods of finding the answers are a great insight into how this economist thinks about finding and comparing data to find out the real information behind what people think. It's so true that our intuition can govern what we think and feel until we look at the hard data and realise the truth of the situation.

A few of the stories tend to get a little bit tiring and i did skip the end of one of the chapters through lack of interest. Generally they are genuinely interesting and come from the authors first or second hand experience of knowing someone who went through a situation. On the whole the book provides a great way of looking at data analysis and economics without the need for trauling through pages of boring data.

It definately helped me to think more about data analysis and comparison and it's use in a creative problem solving situation. At such a low price give it a whirl.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A Rogue Economist makes a couple of rogue observations, 11 May 2010
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Whilst the chapter re. crime and abortion is of some interest, the rest is underwhelming to say the list.
Poor value for money, (short chapters that read like essays/ musings) and absolutely peerless aggrandisement by proxy (from Dubner re. Levitt).

In summary:
Chapter 1- People who you think won't cheat (schoolteachers/ Sumo wrestlers) do if they might not get caught and the risks are worth it. How very suprising.
2-KKK and estate agents - really rather tenuous link between the two. As far as I can see, they have the fact that they both keep secrets in common. Also the chapter informs me of the remarkable insight that information is valuable.
3- Drug dealers and moms (sic.)- mind blowing expose demonstrating that only the people high up in drugs trade make cash. It should be noted that much of the sociological observations in this chapter are actually very interesting- but from a sociologist, Venkatash, who is described as 'thoughtful, handsome and well-built'!

4 - Where have all the criminals gone - by far most interesting chapter of 'book'. Nonetheless, other examples could have been explored further, and the authors do seem somewhat blinkered to the idea that more than 1 cause for an observation can co-exist.

5 - What makes a perfect parent - some trite observations of nature and nurture. Not really economics - not even rogue.

6 - List of names. Some names are more popular amongst whites than blacks and vice versa. Doesn't matter what your name is. Utterly boring.
There is more, - 'bonus material' - rehash the previous 6 chapters in no specific order to try and make me sleep.

I actually did read the entire book, hoping that at one point I'd see the light and realise the genius. I am afraid I didn't. Really not very good I'm afraid.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Some interesting points, 6 Dec 2007
By 
Jeremy Walton (Sidmouth, UK) - See all my reviews
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I was lent this by a friend in the summer; it's well-written, with some interesting points. The chief of these is Levitt's oft-quoted assertion about the link between legalised abortion and the decrease in crime, but there are other little nuggets in here too. For example, Levitt explains that the chief interest of economists is the study of incentives, and illustrates this nicely with the story of the Israeli day-care centre that decided to start fining parents for picking their children up late at the end of the day. The problem was that once the fine was imposed, the number of late pick-ups actually increased; it turns out that this was because the fine was set too low (compared to the cost of the day-care). Levitt points out that an economic incentive was being substituted for a moral one, meaning that, "for just a few dollars each day, parents could buy off their guilt".

Other parts of the book are less memorable - I thought it lost steam towards the end in the investigation of parenting and babies' names (could there have been a way of discussing the latter topic without giving long lists of names?) - and the change of tone in the supplementary material makes it feel like padding. The story of Levitt's life is diverting, but I think it sits uneasily alongside the more technical content - unless, that is, someone was thinking about making a film of this book.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Easy, irreverent and informative read, 15 Sep 2007
I was given this as a gift by beloved colleagues - and I'm happy to say that I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. The book's central theme, despite professing to have none, is about incentives and how they drive human behaviour - from crack dealers to sumo wrestlers and cheating teachers to real estate agents. To quote the authors, 'if morality is about how the world should be, then economics is about the way the world is'.

The book provides witty and left-field analysis of data pertaining to a number of controversial modern social issues, including race and socioeconomics, abortion, education and best of all, crime. There is even a section dealing with trends in baby names that was rather enlightening. The expanded version also contains excerpts from the Freakonomics blog and newspaper articles.

I'm still chuckling at the cited observation made by J.J Dilulio - "Apparently it takes a PhD in criminology to doubt that keeping dangerous criminals incarcerated cuts crime".
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Educational, entertaining and informative., 16 April 2006
By 
An eclectic mix of 'studies'. I bought this on a whim and have thoroughly enjoyed it as a casual read - dipping into it over a couple of weeks, a chapter at a sitting. A level of cynicism is a prerequisite for enjoyment; 'lies, damn lies and statistics' should be a familiar phrase to anyone picking this up and should perhaps be applied to the author's own conlusions also - maybe not for the 'serious economist', but as 'pop-onomics' for the otherwise uninterested it's a page-turner.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Interesting, Witty & Insightful, 5 Feb 2006
By 
J. Neal (United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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I really enjoyed this book and have already recommended it to several friends.
Levitt tackles a number of diverse and interesting subjects. His writing makes complex issues easy to understand, and is often amusing.
I was fascinated at the way Levitt considers and uncovers what really motivates people.
As a new parent I found the couple of chapters on parenting good, but by far the most interesting insight was the primary reason for the decrease of crime in New York… if you're thinking it had something to do with Rudolph Guiliani then I suggest you get the book.
At worst the content can make for some interesting conversations in the Pub.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting easy read that fails to dig deeper, 7 Jun 2006
Freakonomics is a book about how we misconcieve the world and how these misconceptions can be exposed by statistical data. It is not a book about how and WHY we misconcieve the world which is rather what I hoped for.

The book comes across with some interesting and mind changing arguements about things such as Rudi Guiliani's zero tolerance policing and the lifestyles of drug dealers but I would have loved for the book to explore more than it did.

As it stands, freakonomics gives examples of certain misconceptions and provides statistical data to disprove these, with some explanation of why this may be so. There isn't any unifying thread or progressive arguements however as to why these misconceptions arise, which I personally would have liked to have seen. I would have loved a deeper exploration of why "conventional wisdom" is often not very wise but no such analysis is forthcoming.

One gets the feeling that this book has paid a bit more attention to marketing sound bites than to intellectual arguement, which results in the reader being dissapointed at the content, having had his hopes raised so high. You also get the sense of apology from the author when conventional wisdom is contradicted or when analysis comes up with a slightly unpalletable result, which irritates the reader.

On the plus side, it will give the average reader a bit to mull over and the reasonings and arguements are hard to argue with. I certainly don't take some things for granted as I used to.

Three stars purely because it is an entertaining if shallow look at the misconceptions of society.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wacky and thought-provoking, 17 Oct 2010
By 
Bluebell (UK) - See all my reviews
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This is not normally the kind of book I would buy, but as it was recommended to me by the daughter of an economics professor I thought I'd give it a try! I really enjoyed it. The combination of a professional economist, with an obviously divergent mind, aided by a journalist has created a thoroughly readable book that uses the tools of economics to tease apart the factors influencing human actions and behavior. Some of the topics concern things that one wouldn't expect economists to be interested in, such as, does the name you're given at birth affect your likely success in life; are sumo wrestlers fixing their matches; or, more controversially, did the easing of abortion laws in the USA lead to a reduction in the crime-rate nearly 20 years later? As you can see the authors broached a wide range of subjects and weren't afraid to deal with highly contentious issues.
I've got the feeling that there's been a recent trend in the field of economics to try and put values on things like human happiness rather than deal exclusively with hard-nosed business and markets: a change of tack that broadens the appeal of their work to the general public. This book epitomizes this change and certainly had me thinking about a range of issues in a different way.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not as clever as it thinks it is, 2 July 2010
By 
James C. Foreman (Hong Kong) - See all my reviews
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While I was initially amused by some of the observations in here ("Poor people give their children aspirational names, but because they're ill-educated, spell them wrong! How funny!") this is a book that leaves a sour taste in my mouth. The authors spend a long time telling you to avoid falling into pedestrian thinking but to challenge orthodoxies, and then at the end of the book come out and say that you should think like them, because they are incredibly smart.

It also seems to assume that the data being used is beautifully curated and could never be subject to error ... giving rather the impression of some ivory-tower academics postulating about the oddities of the outside world. (Consider stories on their NYT blog where they point out how terrible New York taxis are ... based on an experience they had 15 years ago.)

Or perhaps the whole thing is an exercise in knowing irony. It really isn't an exploration of "the hidden side of everything" so much as an exploration of "all the things we could obtain data for and then produce correlations between, hopefully irritating people and generating hype along the way". Although that's a bit long to fit on the cover as a tag-line. But if you'd like to read a book that feels like you're trapped in a lift with an economist who'd really, really like to be Jerry Seinfeld, read on. Amirite?????!!!
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Freakonomics - And Other Riddles of Modern Life
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