The Pequod Review:
Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner published Freakonomics at just the right time — 2005, as the demand for more rigorous forms of data analysis was rapidly increasing — and the book was an extraordinary success, selling over 4 million copies. (It is the Nevermind of applied economics in the way it popularized an already somewhat well-developed field.) But that shouldn't diminish Levitt's and Dubner's achievement, as the book is a cogent and highly logical work that applies economic reasoning to various social problems — e.g., the causes of declining crime in the 1990s and 2000s, the economics of drug trafficking, the motivations of real estate agents, and (in an especially persuasive section) whether Chicago public school teachers faked student exam results in order to show higher test scores. The book is not without flaws; it suffers from the fact that it sometimes feels like litany of anecdotes rather than a holistic work, and the authors have a tendency to elide complexity in favor of contrarian One Weird Trick-type explanations. But most of their examples are quite persuasive, and the overall book becomes a good illustration of the power of economic reasoning.