Foster's Reviews > Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything

Freakonomics by Steven D. Levitt
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's review
Oct 12, 2007

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bookshelves: economics
Read in September, 2006

It seems like this book has been read by most everyone, so I won't spend too much time disecting it here.

I was told it would be a quick read, and it was. The authors themselves wrote that the book has no "unifying theme", and they were right. However, they did a great job of turning a lot of "conventional wisdom" on its head with their super-objective econometric analyses of everything from corruption in sumo wrestling to babies with "Black sounding" names. It is a little scary to see questions being "answered" with such a blind faith in numbers, but they are at pains to insist that this is just one of many tools for decision making.

The chapter on student success and parenting was very interesting, and provided a nice "crash course" in regression analysis. It is both depressing and relieving to learn that parents can do little, if anything, to influence their children's success. The major point that the authors make is that children are more influenced by what their parents are than what their parents do as parents. For instance, the fact that a parent is a successful person who is curious about the world and has a lot of books in the house is more likely to positively influence the child than if a not so successful parent brings the child to museums and buys books to create an atmosphere of learning. It is a subtle difference, but one which effectively states that the relative quality of parents has been determined long before the child is born. What may also be true is the influence of culture on the academic success of children, but this was not addressed in the book.

I think requiring this text in statistical analysis courses would be a good idea, as it might provide some stimulation to students as they plod through econometrics and regression. It's always good to get a different point of view, and Freakonomics certainly provides that.
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