Steven D. Levitt
“The Rogue Economist”
H-Econ Period 4 - Gluck
Who is he?
Steven D. Levitt, 42, is an inﬂuential
economist, who is most well known for
his ﬁrst book Freakonomics, co-
http://pricetheory.uchicago.edu authored with Stephen J. Dubner.
http://www.portroids.com/Y3/Steven_D_Levitt.htm /levitt/home.html Recipient of the 2004 John Bates Clark
Medal (given to the most inﬂuential
economist under the age of 40)
Named one of the “100 People Who
Shape Our World” by Time magazine
Co-author of the New York Times
Currently holds the position as the
William B. Ogden Distinguished
Service Professor of Economics at the
University of Chicago
Director of the Becker Center on
Chicago Price Theory at the University.
The Questions He Tries to Answer
What motivates people and how do they get what they
In Freakonomics, Levitt does not provide a list of
economic principles and theories, but instead provides
case studies to discuss patterns of behavior in relation to
the study of economics.
Examples of case studies: relationship between abortion
rates and crime rates.
“Economics is, at root, the
study of incentives.”
-Steven D. Levitt
Levitt states that incentives
ultimately should get people to
“do more of a good thing” as
opposed to “a bad thing.”
Levitt’s Case Study on Day Care
The Problem: In Israel, many parents are neglecting day care
policies and picking up their children after 4PM.
The Proposed Solution: Day care studies, participating in
Levitt’s studies on behavior, instigated a system of ﬁning tardy
The Expected Result: The parents would arrive on time at 4PM
to avoid being ﬁned.
The Actual Result: The percentage of tardy parents shot up
after the installation of the ﬁne system.
The Conclusion: There is a need to divide up incentives into
three main categories consisting of economic, social, and
moral incentives. In this case, the moral incentive outweighed
His Most Controversial Work: “The Impact of
Legalized Abortion on Crime” by Levitt and John
Impact of Legalized Abortion on
Levitt’s Proposal: Data on the issue seems to conﬁrm
that legalization of abortion results in nearly half the
reduction in crime that occurs.
Sociological Implications: The paper implied that
“unwanted children” are much more likely to commit
crimes as opposed to “wanted” children.
Controversy: Christopher Foote and Christopher Goetz
issued in their report that many variables that affect
crime rates that cannot be translated into data were
ignored in Levitt and Donohue’s paper.
Levitt, continues to as important questions about the way we
as a society behave through his studies on human behavior.
His next book, Superfreakonomics, will come out this October
and include new studies on terrorism, prostititution, and
Malcom Gladwell stated that Levitt is the only “expert” he has
met who seems like he would be willing to alter his beliefs if
presented with convincing evidence and research.
Because of his continued radical case studies, Steven Levitt has
often been called a “rogue economist.”
"Abortion, crime and econometrics." The Economist (2005). Print.This article provides a critical analysis of Levitt and Donohue's paper
on abortion in relation to crime rates.
Dubner, Stephen J. "The Economist of Odd Questions Inside the Astonishingly Curious Mind of Steven D. Levitt." The New York Times
Magazine 2003. Web. 22 Sept. 2009. <http://stephenjdubner.com/journalism/economist.html>.This article is an in-depth profile of
Steven Levitt. Therefore it gives both a detailed and accessible description of Levitt's thoughts/principles while also giving a
description of his character.
Foote, Christopher L., and Christopher F. Goetz. "The Impact of Legalized Abortion on Crime: Comment." Working Papers (2008): 1-
33. Federal Reserve Bank of Boston. Web. 27 Sept. 2009. <http://www.bos.frb.org/economic/wp/wp2005/wp0515.pdf>.
Gladwell, Malcom. "100 People Who Shape Our World: Steven Levitt." TIME. Time Inc., 30 Apr. 2006. Web. 22 Sept. 2009.
<http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1186920,00.html>.This article is useful in that it provides a succinct analysis
on the influence of Steven Levitt in the field of economics. It provides a possible focus/controlling idea for my paper in the way it
clearly outlines what Steven Levitt has achieved.
Levitt, Steven D., and Mark Duggan. "Winning Isn Everything: Corruption in Sumo Wrestling." The American Economic Review 92.5
(2002): 1594-605. The University of Chicago. Web. 22 Sept. 2009.
<http://pricetheory.uchicago.edu/levitt/Papers/DugganLevitt2002.pdf>.This article by Mark Duggan and Steven Levitt addresses
behavioral patterns (decision making) in economics. Specifically it discusses the role that corruption holds in real-world
economics through the case of sumo-wrestling and the prevalence of corruption throughout that field.
Levitt, Steven D. "Juvenile Crime and Punishment." The Journal of Political Economy 106.6 (1998): 1156-185. JSTOR database. Web.
22 Sept. 2009. <http://pricetheory.uchicago.edu/levitt/Papers/LevittJuvenileCrimePunishment1998.pdf>.Much of Steven Levitt's
studies concentrate on the nature of politics and crime in relation to economics and sociology. This article is one where Steven
Levitt discusses juvenile crime, using the case of juvenile crime as a medium to express his thoughts on crime and sociology.
Although this article does not directly address Levitt's studies as an economist, the article does illustrate how much of what Levitt
researches has a societal meaning.
Simon, Scott. "'Freakonomics': Musings of a 'Rogue Economist'" Npr.org. PBS, 9 Apr. 2005. Web. 27 Sept. 2009.
<http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=4583937>.This article discusses specific arguments Steven D. Levitt
makes in his book "Freakonomics".
"Steven D. Levitt." The University of Chicago, 2009. Web. 27 Sept. 2009. <uchicago.edu>.Brief biography on Steven D. Levitt from the
University of Chicago.