What the Economists Aren't Telling You
(Business 2.0) – Economics 101 was definitely boring. But in the hands of Steven D. Levitt (right), the subject is deliciously sordid. In Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything (William Morrow), the University of Chicago professor, along with coauthor Stephen J. Dubner, compiles a series of economic lessons with juicy twists, including what The Weakest Link game show teaches us about latent discrimination and how the name you choose affects your baby's financial future. Here's a peek at some of the freakier finds. --STEVE POWERS
Money can replace morals. To deter parents from picking kids up late, a day-care center fined them $3 per child for each infraction. But the number of latecomers doubled, because "parents could buy off their guilt," Levitt writes.
Legalizing abortion lessened crime. Levitt presents compelling evidence that Roe v. Wade--in reducing the number of potential criminals born--had a far greater impact on the early-1990s drop in crime than gun control, the strong economy, or improved police tactics.
Semantics sells. In real estate ads, specific words like "granite" and "gourmet" fetch higher home prices, while vague descriptors like "charming" and "great neighborhood" drive values down.
Drug dealing is harder than you think. A crack dealer earning a paltry $3.30 an hour has a higher chance of being killed (1 in 4) than a Texas death row inmate (1 in 20).