Thursday, June 16, 2005

Read any good books about real estate agents and sumo wrestlers lately?

It was heartening to see the SJ-R’s editorial response to the previous day’s story about the large percentage of public school expellees who are African American. They correctly pointed out that there are a number of factors other than race that could contribute to this problem. They must have been reading Steven Levitt’s fascinating book “Freakonomics.” I would recommend it to anyone who is more interested in, to paraphrase Levitt, what the truth is rather than what we would like it to be. He spends a good deal of time in the book discussing what factors play a significant role in a child’s success in school, and what factors are considered by many to be key but are actually insignificant. With the proper set of data to work with, I’m sure he could point to some remarkable similarities between all of the students who have been expelled, irregardless of their race.

Levitt is one of the brightest economists in the country and he is known for tackling subjects traditionally seen as outside the realm of economics. Abortion’s effect on the crime rate, disreputable real estate agents, corruption amongst sumo wrestlers, to name but a few. He approaches each subject absent an agenda, willing to go wherever the data takes him before drawing a conclusion. The fact that his findings have frequently sparked attacks from ideologues on both sides of the political divide speaks for his credibility. It’s a great read and if you have the means, I highly recommend it.

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