Thursday, October 15, 2009


Here's an interesting video plug for the second installment of the book where "a rogue economist studies the hidden side of everything":

And here's the quiz at
Q 1: According to SuperFreakonomics, what has been most helpful in improving the lives of women in rural India?
A: Cable and satellite TV. Women with television were less willing to tolerate wife beating, less likely to admit to having a "son preference," and more likely to exercise personal autonomy. Plus, the men were perhaps too busy watching cricket.

Q 2: Among Chicago street prostitutes, which night of the week is the most profitable?
A: Saturday nights are the most profitable. While Friday nights are the busiest, the single greatest determinant of a prostitute's price is the specific trick she is hired to perform. And for whatever reason, Saturday customers purchase more expensive services.

Q 3: You land in an emergency room with a serious condition and your fate lies in the hands of the doctor you draw. Which characteristic doesn't seem to matter in terms of doctor skill?
A: One factor that doesn't seem to matter is whether a doctor is highly rated by his or her colleagues. Those named as best by their colleagues turned out to be no better than average at lowering death rates — although they did spend less money on treatments.

Q 4: Which cancer is chemotherapy more likely to be effective for?
A: Leukemia. Chemotherapy has proven effective on some cancers, including leukemia, lymphoma, Hodgkin's disease, and testicular cancer, especially if these cancers are detected early. But in most cases, chemotherapy is remarkably ineffective, often showing zero discernible effect. That said, cancer drugs make up the second-largest category of pharmaceutical sales, with chemotherapy comprising the bulk.

Q 5: Half of the decline in deaths from heart disease is mainly attributable to:
A: Inexpensive drugs. Expensive medical procedures, while technologically dazzling, are responsible for a remarkably small share of the improvement in heart disease. Roughly half of the decline has come from reductions in risk factors like high cholesterol and high blood pressure, both of which are treated with relatively inexpensive drugs. And much of the remaining decline is thanks to ridiculously inexpensive treatments like aspirin, heparin, ACE inhibitors, and beta-blockers.

Q 6: True or False: Child car seats do a better job of protecting children over the age of 2 from auto fatalities than regular seat belts.
A: False. Based on extensive data analysis as well as crash tests paid for by the authors, old-fashioned seat belts do just as well as car seats.

Q 7: What's the best thing a person can do personally to cut greenhouse gas emissions?
A: Shifting less than one day per week's worth of calories from red meat and dairy products to chicken, fish, eggs, or a vegetable-based diet achieves more greenhouse--gas reduction than buying all locally sourced food, according to a recent study by Christopher Weber and H. Scott Matthews, two Carnegie Mellon researchers. Every time a Prius or other hybrid owner drives to the grocery store, she may be cancelling out its emissions-reducing benefit, at least if she shops in the meat section. Emission from cows, as well as sheep and other ruminants, are 25 times more potent as a greenhouse gas than the carbon dioxide released by cars and humans.

Q 8: Which is most effective at stopping the greenhouse effect?
A: The 1991 eruption of Mount Pinatubo in the Philippines discharged more than 20 million tons of sulfur dioxide into the atmosphere, which acted like a layer of sunscreen, reducing the amount of solar radiation and cooling off the earth by an average of one degree F.

Q 9: In the 19th century, one of the gravest threats of childbearing was puerperal fever, which was often fatal to mother and child. Its cause was finally determined to be:
A: This was the dawning age of the autopsy, and doctors did not yet know the importance of washing their hands after leaving the autopsy room and entering the delivery room.

Q 10: Which of the following were not aftereffects of the World Trade Center and Pentagon attacks on September 11, 2001:
A: The psychological effect of the attacks caused people to increase their alcohol consumption, and traffic accidents increased as a result.
I bought the first one for my brother and was able to get halfway through before I gave it to him for his birthday. This one sounds just a good.


  1. Did you do something I don't know about?

  2. I watched Steven Levitt's TED talk, and it's worth pointing out that though his data shows that carseats are not effective in reducing deaths of children over 2 in car accidents, he has no data on whether or not they reduce injury. Without that info, I'm not sure I'd start decrying carseats just yet.

  3. Yea, I gmailed you this video!

  4. I'm not an economist and I read it. I can't believe you only got halfway!

  5. Oh thanks Kev, somehow I missed it. But you were right to think I'd be interested!

    I know Alyssa I should be ashamed to call myself and economist. I thought about giving my brother his present late so I could finish it, but I don't think that would fly.


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