May 8, 2005

FREAKY DUDES:

U. of C. economist looks for the freakin' deal (SHARON COHEN, May 8, 2005, Chicago Sun-Times)

Steve Levitt's world is economics, but he has no patience for inflation charts or stock market tables. He'd much prefer to plunge into a scholarly study of ... cheating sumo wrestlers.

Or slippery real estate agents.

Or drug-dealing gang members.

Levitt is a maverick economist at the University of Chicago, a school known for esteemed scholars who've paved a path to Stockholm, Sweden: Five Nobel Prize winners in economics are on the faculty. Eighteen others were students, researchers or professors at Chicago.

With a boyish curiosity and a powerhouse resume (Harvard, M.I.T., Chicago), Levitt has explored everything from provocative social issues-- linking abortion and lower crime rates-- to patterns of ethnic and age bias among TV game show contestants.

"It's not like I go looking for trouble," Levitt says. "But I try to find unusual ways to ask questions that people care about. And the most interesting answers you can come up with are the ones that are absolutely true and completely unexpected."

Levitt summarizes his unorthodox research in a new book, "Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything." With co-author Stephen Dubner, he details some eyebrow-raising findings:

Guns kill fewer kids than swimming pools.

Gang members may not be mama's boys, but they often share mama's house.

The Ku Klux Klan and real estate agents have something in common.

Posted by Orrin Judd at May 8, 2005 10:39 AM
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