An Analysis of Freakonomics, by Steven D. Levitt

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Economics in reverse is the best way of describing the unconventional method preferred by economist, Steven D. Levitt. While most economists measure social situations and present the data as numbers and graphs Levitt takes anomalies within the data to reveal truths obscured. It’s Levitt’s sociological take on economics that has set him apart from his peers with his heavy focus on incentives, choices, and the consequences they have. Freakonomics mirrors Levitt’s method since it’s a collection of stories he has uncovered or read, and the core economic principles are hidden within each story throughout the book, sometimes even in plain sight like how there are exactly as many chapters as there are core economic principles. Levitt states that the root of Economics is the study of incentives (Levitt 20) since scarcity causes Social-Darwinism by competition for resources that people want and need. But rather than presenting cases of incentives that serve their intend purposes Levitt displays cases in which incentives have failed and backfired. One example of such a case is when day-care centers in Haifa, Israel enacted a fine on parents who picked up their children late. They hope was to decrease the numbers of late parents but average of late parents actually doubled (Levitt 19-20). The reason was plain to see, the incentive was not big enough. The fine was only three dollars, less than that of a morning cup of coffee. An unusual story involving incentives and morning cuisine is that of Levitt’s recalling of Paul Feldman who ran a bagel delivery service in Washington D.C. Feldman had brought in bagels to work every week while working at a research institute and in order to keep funding the bagels he had a collections b... ... middle of paper ... ...d G. Fryer Jr., himself an African-American, has studied the “Acting White/Black” phenomena and found it stems more from education, “White” referring towards higher level of education and “Black” referring to lower levels. When race is removed from the equation a prevalent pattern can be seen within races as socioeconomic status and naming trends (Levitt 190). The pattern is able to roughly measure the education of a child’s mother depending on the choice of name and the frequency of the name within social classes (Levitt 190-204). Over time Fryer could see the way names tended to move, down. As names become more used and common they will pass on lower to lower social classes (Levitt 201). Works Cited Levitt, Steven D., and Stephen J. Dubner. Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything. New York: Penguin Books Ltd, 2006. Print.

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