Not a Freak Accident
Freakonomics: A rogue economist explores the hidden side of everything
By Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner
It has to do with thinking sensibly about how people behave in the real world. Pg 209
In this century, Freakanomics is THE book that popularized economics. So much so that some researchers postulate that a spike in undergraduate enrolments in economics majors occurred because the book came out. This was known as the freakonomics effect. However, it’s not clear whether this increase was due to a favourable impression on the parents or the students! Either way, it made economics a hot topic of interest. It even got to the point where many university introductory economics courses had this book on the curriculum. (Actually I have a vain hope that Cocktail Party Economics will have this place in the future.)
Whether these impacts are significant or not, the book (and its sequel Superfeakonomics) is certainly worth mentioning in my blog for the simple fact that it was a best seller and an iconic part of popular culture. It puts into plain language the results of academic research (mostly Levitt’s) often inaccessible to mainstream audiences. This includes research about cheating behaviour among school teachers and Sumo Wrestlers, how names impact lifetime income, and effective parenting strategies. The underlying message for each example is the same: incentives matter. These incentives can be monetary or not. Come to think of it, this is also the message of The Logic of Life by Tim Harford—only with different examples and The Logic of Life has more structure. I must confess, I found Tim’s book more interesting than Freakanomics but Freakonomics definitely had the first mover advantage and it’s probably something you should know about next time you are at a cocktail party.
Tags: Evie Adomait, Freakonomics, incentives, Stephen Dubner, Steven Levitt