Freakonimics: tears down the conventional wisdom that

Freakonimics: A Rogue Economist
Explores the Hidden Side of Everything, by S.D. Levitt and S. J. Dubner is an
unconventional collaboration of a book considering it is written by an
economist. It was published on April 12, 2005, but by late 2009 grossed over
four million copies sold. Although it was written by an economist, S. D. Levitt
is not an average economist. In the book, he sets to unravel some of the
questions of everyday life. In six chapters, the topics jump from discovering
cheating to the economics of drug dealing to socioeconomic patterns of naming
children and several others in between. Throughout exploring this real world
content, Levitt connects his findings to summon wrestlers, the Ku Klux Klan,
and teachers, (to name a few), to more easily illustrate his discoveries. One
important message he wants to get across to his readers is to ‘think outside
the box’ and provokes this point by asking a list of questions including: “What
is more dangerous, a gun or a swimming pool?”, “How did the legalization of
abortion affect the rate of violent crime?”,” Why do drug dealers still live
with their moms?” and “How much do parents really matter?”

There is a plethora of sociological
concepts described and applied throughout the book; typically, they are grouped
within corresponding chapters with some overlapping. One of the major concepts
stressed in Freakonomics is that conventional wisdom can often be wrong. As
many people would conclude by using context clues, conventional wisdom is
simply a widespread belief or theory that is commonly accepted. Levitt proves
this theory to be wrong by disproving an idea that many people have about drug
dealers – they are all wealthy. Despite the general public believing this predisposition,
after conducting research gathering evidence, and analyzing it, Levitt tears
down the conventional wisdom that most drug dealers have lots an abundance of

Another sociological term defined
and portrayed in the book (which is one we have recently discussed in class),
is “supply and demand”. Levitt explains the concept in easily understanding way
telling that (in a capitalist society, which the U.S. is), if there are a lot
willing to do a job, said job will no pay well. More competition equals power

Also discussed in Freakonomics
are incentives. This portion begins with Levitt asking the reader “what do
school teachers and summon wrestlers have in common?” He then goes on to use an
example of a daycare. At the daycare, the children are always picked up late.
To prevent this, the daycare puts a fine in place for the parents who pick
their children up late. To my surprise, the number of tardiness’s in parents
only went up. From there Levitt tells about incentives can be used and the
three types of them.

Next, the book tackles “unexpected
causes”. This concept ties into other important subjects of the book such as thinking
outside of the box and conventional wisdom. The author warns us to not
automatically assume the correlation between things when we find, record, and
or analyze data. He compares this topic to the drop in crime in the 1990s and
the strategies and laws put in place at the time. In doing this, Levitt
concludes that sometimes, things we are studying can of have indirect and
originally unclear causes.

Along with these concepts,
Freakanomics briefly explains capitalism (“an economic and political system in
which a country’s trade and industry are controlled by private owners for profit,
rather by the state” per As I have already mentioned, this is the
economic system currently in place in the U.S. (however it is not absolute). During
a section that Levitt discuses capitalism, he also touches on a ‘winner takes
all labor market’. Essentially in this type of marker, there are a lot of
laborers compete for a certain job, but very few are successful in finding one.
The employees/laborers that do find said job are paid very low wages. This is
due to the fact they are easily replaceable by another laborer that is out of a

On top of these five sociological
concepts I have mentioned, parenting is also discussed. Aside from it being
another social concept that Levitt attacks, it doubles as a social institution
as well. Levitt sparks conversation over parenting by debating the most proper
parenting techniques, as well as the affects that parents’ choices have on
their children’s life and just how much a parent socializing (prepares and
teachers their child to act in different social settings) their child matters.

From my understanding and point
of view, one of the sociological theories Steven D. Levitt subscribes to in Freakonimics:
A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything, is that of a
functionalist. Functionalism is “the perspective in sociology according to
which society consists of different but related parts, each of which serves a
particular purpose” (per Chegg/ To me, I felt as if numerous
times throughout the book Levitt described how different septate components in
society interact with each other. I do also believe that Levitt used more than
one sociological theory during the writing of this book. He approached topics
with different methods and theories in a very sociological manner. This is very
uncommon of an economist.

As a “casual reader” I found this
book fairly valuable. It was quite intere3eting especially because of how the
author relates concepts to real life situations. From a sociologists view point
I think this book is very valuable. Freakonomics helps readers understand components
that in my opinion are key for someone diving into the world of sociology. More
specifically I think the book is great for those who are relatively new to the
subject of sociology and all it entails (such as myself). Some significant sociological
concepts discussed in the book include conventional wisdom, parenting,
incentives, and many others. Personally, Freakonomics has taught me to always
think outside the box when analyzing data and to not jump to conclusions, but
instead to consider unexpected causes.


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