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Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Freakonomics: Steven Levitt and Roland Fryer

Back in August 2003 I blogged (here) a link to a fascinating NYTimes Mag profile of a young UofC economist named Steven Levitt. (The original NYTimes link doesn't yield the full article anymore, but at the time I found this link that does.)

I was reminded of that profile because, first, the NYTimes Mag ran another very interesting profile of a young and unconventional economist a couple weeks ago: a profile of Roland Fryer, headlined "Toward a Unified Theory of Black America" (pdf).

The profile mentions that Fryer has collaborated with Levitt. In fact, both profiles were written by the same guy, Stephen Dubner, and now Dubner and Levitt have published a book on Levitt's work, titled Freakonomics. Just came across this excerpt in Slate, which describes some work of Levitt's and Fryer's on a typically atypical (and controversial) subject:

A Roshanda by Any Other Name
How do babies with super-black names fare?
By Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner
Posted Monday, April 11, 2005, at 3:32 AM PT

The book's website is here.

Update (Sun, April 17): I was going to mention that Levitt & "Freakonomics" reminded me somewhat of Gladwell and his "Tipping Point", in a superficial way--popularizations of clever and counterintuitive explanations of social phenomena. Coincidentally, the newest addition to the NYTimes' op-ed roster of op-ed columnists, John Tierney, wrote a column for yesterday's paper about a public discussion between Levitt and Gladwell: "The Miracle That Wasn't"

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