Monday, January 20, 2014

Book Review: "Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything" By Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner

I am not one who does math willingly. Mostly because I'm terrible at it and when I do math I'm usually wrong which invites ridicule from my math teacher husband. Knowing that, "Freakonomics" might seem like a strange choice of reading material. I remember when it came out and what a sensation it caused, and then again when the documentary came out. I've seen a few minutes of the documentary and that was enough to make me think that it would be worth the read,even with all of it's talk about math and numbers and talk of bell graphs.

The book's chapters are the answers to the chapters titular questions like "What makes a perfect parent?" Or "Why do so many drug dealers still live with their moms?". (Spoiler alert: no such thing as perfect parents and the book does admit as much.) 

Here's some of my favorite little factoids that I learned.

In the (fascinating) chapter about drug dealing and the hierarchy and structure of a dangerous inner city gang they talk about the danger of being a drug dealer. It's not surprising that this is a dangerous position and that death is common. However, you are more likely to be killed dealing drugs on the street than being executed as a death row inmate in Texas.(crazy right?!)

There is a chapter that discusses why the experts prediction of a huge crime wave in the mid to late 90s never actually happened. Many people argue that it had to do with changes in gun control and keeping guns out of people's hands. Did you know that in Switzerland every man is issued an assault rifle (for militia duty) and is allowed to keep it in their home? Therefore Switzerland has more guns per capita than almost any other country but is one of the safest places in the world. ("Guns don't kill people,people kill people",huh.)

This place is FULL of guns.

There's also a whole chapter devoted to kids with weird names and how it effects their career and life in general. (A chapter after my own heart).This chapter also has a couple of interesting graphs regarding names/economic status/race as well.

I gave this book 3 out of 5 stars. I found some of the chapters really fascinating,and it was nice to see the the math right there. Even if you don't find the chapters interesting or you disagree with some of their conclusions the book still has worth. The boom shows how easily statistics can be manipulated and molded to fit a purpose or a cause. Always good to be reminded that it's good to be a cautious consumer.


  1. If anyone is interested in something in the same vein check out "Scorecasting: The Hidden Influences Behind How Sports Are Played and Games Are Won"
    Very fun read for the sports/math potentially not up the Library Educated's alley (sports pun). If for nothing else its totally worth reading the chapter on the 'cursed' Cubs, very interesting.

  2. Yeah, I've seen Moneyball a couple of times and that's about the sum of my attention for that. But thanks for the rec, it could peak an interest in someone!


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