Notable Economist: Steven
Q: WHAT DO ABORTIONS, CRACK
DEALERS, REAL ESTATE AGENTS, THE
KKK, AND ADOPTED CHILDREN HAVE
TO DO WITH ECONOMICS?
A presentation by Grace Wang
A: WELL, NOT MUCH AT FIRST GLANCE.
Yet, these are the things that
economist Steven D. Levitt
Levitt uses the tools of
economics to explore human
behaviors, often examining
curiosities, expanding the
boundaries of economics to
other social sciences.
WHO IS MR. LEVITT?
He is… an economist. But!
“Forget your image of an economist as
a crusty professor worried about
fluctuating interest rates” – Publishers
“A maverick treasure hunter” - The Wall
“Neither politically correct nor pushing
a political viewpoint” – Time Out New
“An economist Sherlock Holmes” – The
BUT REALLY… WHO IS STEVEN LEVITT?
A Harvard and MIT alumnus.
The winner of the 2003 John
Bates Clark Award, awarded to
the most influential economist
under the age of 40.
A professor of Economics at the
University of Chicago
Co-Author of Freakonomics and
Superfreakonomics, 2 of the
best selling economics books of
Stephen Dubner and Steven Levitt with their all time.
THIS IS WHAT HE DOES
Q: Will having more police officers Q: Why did crime rates drop so
cause a decrease in crime? suddenly in the ‘90s?
Problem no other researcher overcame: Everyone else’s answer: better gun control,
positive correlation between number of innovative policing strategies, and better
police officers and number of crimes. In economy.
other words, when there are more police,
there are more crimes. (Does not mean Levitt’s answer and reasoning: The
more police CAUSES more crimes) legalization of abortion in the 70’s.
Legalized abortion altered the size of the
Levitt’s answer: To show causality, the police criminal population in later decades by
force needs to increase while crime rates allowing these would be criminally
remained constant. Before elections, inclined children to not be born. It was
mayors hire more police forces to pull in already established that those getting
votes. This exogenous source of variation abortions were young, unmarried, and
allowed Levitt to show that yes, indeed, a poor and that children raised in poor
large police force causes a decrease in conditions were more likely to engage in
Freakonomics presented the difficult
science of economics in non-
academic terms, making the subject
accessible to those untrained in the
It brought the general public a new
way of looking at the world while
also stimulating interesting
conversations among experts in the
field about the future of economics
Recent surveys show
increase of graduate
students of economics
interested in what Levitt is
Macroeconomics- doing (microeconomics)
dealing with broad and general
aspects of economics. Generally
using model assumptions and
versus what most notable
economic theories. economists of recent time
have been doing
dealing with particular aspects (macroeconomics)
of economics. Often using
statistical data and empirical
“More and more, ‘Freakonomics’ is becoming
mainstream economics. That is the research that
young economists see themselves doing” – David
Colander, economic historian at Middlebury College
Challenged conventional wisdom using economics as a tool
Expanded the range of economics, tackling novel subjects
Popularized economics to the general public through his
Stimulated conversation within his field and inspired a
resurgence of interest in microeconomics
Dubner, Steven Levitt & Stephen. Freakonomics. New York: Harper Perennial, 2009.
Fox, Justin. "Is the World Ready for Freakonomics Again?" 26 October 2009. Times. 9 February 2010
Levitt, Steven. "NBER Publications by Steven D. Levitt." December 2009. National Bureau of Economic
Research. 9 February 2010 <http://www.nber.org/authors/Steven_Levitt>.
Poterba, James M. "Steven D. Levitt: 2003 John Bates Clark Medalist." The Journal of Economic Perspectives
Summer 2005: Vol. 19, No. 3 pp. 181-198.
Uchitelle, Louis. "Students Are Leaving the Politics Out of Economics." 26 Janruary 2006. The New York
Times. 9 February 2010