Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Freakonomics

Interesting book coming out called Freakonomics...

Here's the description:

Which is more dangerous, a gun or a swimming pool? What do schoolteachers and sumo wrestlers have in common? Why do drug dealers still live with their moms? How much do parents really matter? What kind of impact did Roe v. Wade have on violent crime? ... [Steven D. Levitt] is a much-heralded young scholar who studies the riddles of everyday life-from cheating and crime to sports and child-rearing - and whose conclusions regularly turn the conventional wisdom on its head.


Its so interesting to think about economics in the context of decision-making and human actions. Basically, the authors use data to discover surprising new things about people and how we function.

Very neat!

Did you see the article called What the Bagel Man Saw last year? Levitt wrote that article as well (with co-author Stephen J. Dubner)! In that article, Levitt describes a man who has a bagel business. The bagel man (who happened to have an advance degree in economics) would leave a box of bagels in the kitchen along with a box for money at each company he sold to.

Whether you pay for your bagel or not is basically Scout's honor -- no one is there to police you.

What did he discover?
  • He has identified two great overriding predictors of a company's honesty: morale and size. Paul F. has noted a strong correlation between high payment rates and an office where people seem to like their boss and their work.

  • Weather, for instance, has a major effect on the payment rate. Unseasonably pleasant weather inspires people to pay a significantly higher rate. Unseasonably cold weather, meanwhile, makes people cheat prolifically; so does heavy rain and wind.

  • But he will say that telecom companies have robbed him blind, and another bagel-delivery man found that law firms aren't worth the trouble.

  • He also says he believes that employees further up the corporate ladder cheat more than those down below.... Maybe, he says, the executives stole bagels out of a sense of entitlement. (Or maybe cheating is how they got to be executives.)


Dubner also wrote an article recently in the New York Times about a young economics professor at Harvard who has done very interesting work...

Roland G. Fryer Jr. is 27 years old and he is an assistant professor of economics at Harvard and he is black. Yes, 27 is young to be any kind of professor anywhere. But after what might charitably be called a slow start in the scholarly life, Fryer has been in a big hurry to catch up. He was in fact only 25 when he went on the job market, gaining offers from -- well, just about everywhere. He abruptly ended his job search by accepting an invitation to join the Society of Fellows at Harvard, one of academia's most prestigious research posts. This meant he wouldn't be teaching anywhere for three years. The Harvard economics department told Fryer to take its offer anyway; he could have an office and defer his teaching obligation until the fellowship was done.


Anyway, check out the the author's blog.. Neat stuff!

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