Freakonomics **** : A University of Chicago economics professor analyzes statistics to challenge popular beliefs. Co-written by a newspaper/magazine author, and thus a bit light on the math and watered down for mainstream acceptance, but a thought stimulating read.

Some of the interesting topics discussed/proven in this book:

  • How teachers cheat by altering their students' standardized test scores
  • How sumo wrestlers cheat by throwing matches when it doesn't affect their overall ranking and will help their opponent's ranking
  • How a children's radio show and free information flow mortally wounded the Ku Klux Klan
  • Why real estate agents don't have anything to gain by helping you get a better deal
  • How and why people lie about themselves on online dating services
  • How little drug dealers really make and why they still live with their moms
  • The effect that legalized abortion had on crime rates in the 1990s
  • How your child has a greater chance of dying if she plays at a friend's house where there is a swimming pool rather than playing at a friend's house where there is a gun present
  • How parents focus their energy on safer cribs and child car seats and how they are, at best, nominally helpful in preventing child deaths, along with child-resistant packaging, flame-retardant pajamas, car airbags, and safety drawstrings no clothes (the cumulative deaths from all of these causes is significantly less than swimming pool drownings for children).
  • How "good parenting actions" have very little effect on the educational success of children (the following had no correlation with academic success: having a stay-at-home parent; being read to them every day; going on museum trips or being enrolled in Head Start; not watching TV)
  • The socioeconomic effect of a person's name

tags: book-reviews nonfiction economics
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