Book Review: Freakonomics


By Jennifer Miyoshi

For a brief moment in college, I considered being an economics major because it seemed practical. However, when I saw the fat textbooks filled with numbers and jargon that would have put me to sleep after five minutes, I immediately changed my mind and took some classes on Latin America instead. I vowed I would never look at another econ book again but then I came across Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner.

I like reading a lot but I was very skeptical about reading a book related to economics for recreational purposes. I don’t have much time to read so I have to choose wisely but at the insistence of my sister, who usually has excellent taste in books, I decided to give it a chance. After all, the book’s title has the word “freak” in it and I like that word.

Why do drug dealers still live with their mothers? How is the Ku Klux Klan like a group of real-estate agents? How much do parents really matter? How did the legalization of abortion in the United States contribute to the crime drop in the 1990s? What do school teachers and sumo wrestlers have in common?

These questions and their answers are what the new field of study called ‘freakonomics’ is all about; those questions that are sometimes asked and rarely answered. Some of these questions discuss very serious and heated topics such as race, poverty, and abortion while other questions are rather more obscure and – well – freakish. Using the tools and strategies of economics, Levitt examines these questions thoroughly and presents his findings with confidence. Many people may not agree with the conclusions he and his co-author come to because they challenge conventional wisdom but the authors at the very least offer an alternative way of looking at the world. Their insights are entertaining and thought-provoking and make for an enjoyable read. Be sure to pay careful attention to the chapter about school teachers and sumo wrestlers!

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