Freakonomics was recommended to me by a friend who is getting his Ph.D in economics. As we talked about it, I thought I might enjoy it because it sounded like it would have a similar concept and writing style of Blink and The Tipping Point. I imagined that it would be non fiction that reads like fiction and is full of cleverly interesting pieces of information – I was completely right.
This book reminded me of an economics class I took as a freshman in college. Our professor asked us to explain why a grocery store in a low income neighborhood may have higher prices than the same store in a high income area. Like my professor, Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner attempt to take everyday paradoxes, questions and perplexities and explain them via economics. The Stephens examine why crime rates fell in the 90’s, why drug dealers make less than minimum wage, and how your first name can or cannot determine your fate. Their arguments are intriguing and thought provoking and the stories and examples they use to illustrate their examples make the book read like fiction.
My absolute favorite theory in this book is that crime rates fell in the 90’s in direct response to the passing of Roe v. Wade in 1973. The Stephens argue that when Roe v. Wade was passed, women who were more likely to give birth to future criminals often decided to have an abortion. Therefore, nearly 20 years later crime fell as these would-be criminals did not reach the age at which to begin committing crimes. How interesting is that?! I know this theory must be hotly debated but the Stephens defended it very well and I’m inclined to say that their theory sounds pretty solid.
But the abortion/crime rate example is just one of many truly interesting and engaging examples in Freakonomics. I highly recommend checking it before you sell your house, name your baby or cheat on a test.