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Superfreakonomics - the Summary

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SuperFreakonomics gives us an interesting way to look at economics. Levitt & Dubner do not use a bunch of economic jargon to argue their ideas, but give examples that everyday people can relate to. Each chapter is a series of short stories that relate to each other in interesting ways. This book was a very good read, really entertaining. The ideas in this book were interesting to say the least. From the very first page, it grasps your attention. They make normal, everyday occurrences seem interesting and show you how economics is in play all around us.

Introduction Putting the Freak in Economics

The introduction first brought us the sobering statistics that you are eight times more likely to get killed drunk walking that by drunk driving. (3) That is crazy to me, but it totally makes sense as you read the case they present to you. I have presented this idea to my husband and a few others and they laughed at the concept, but my husband in the next in line to read this book. The next idea presented in the introduction focuses on the fact that female are undervalued in India, and the lengths that the people would go to in order to only give birth to sons or to kill their baby daughters. However, as cable television became available throughout the country the women who had access to television were showing more autonomy and became empowered. Their husbands were treating them more equally. It goes on to show that even though television may have worked for the good in this situation, the media can also be of a disservice. The example they give is how the media plays up shark attack coverage during the summer. Even though there is only an average of 60 shark attacks per year, every year 200 people are killed by elephants. (15) Yet, nobody is scared of an elephant since the media doesn't talk about it.

Chapter 1: How is a Street Prostitute Like a Department Store Santa

This chapter starts off showing how prostitution has been losing its profitability. We are looking at basic supply and demand. The prostitutes of today, make relatively less money than the prostitutes in the past. One of the main reasons being that women are more likely to have sex before marriage now, so the demand for prostitutes in down.(30) The book also shows how if a prostitute has a pimp, it is better for her overall (even though she has to give him a percentage of her profit). They compare how a pimp and realtor perform the same primary service- marketing.(40) With the internet you could virtually sell your home by yourself, but the internet is not a good idea to sell prostitution. Once you consider the value of the two, you get a better value using a pimp. The comparison with street prostitutes and a department store Santa comes from the study that showed how during the holidays women who do not usually prostitute will temporarily do it because the demand is so high. These women can prostitute just for the holidays and charge high prices. (Like a department store Santa.)

This chapter mainly is focused on the pay gap between men and women. Men still make more than women. Money is the driving force behind most men. Men have even taken over the jobs that women were making money more at such as coaching WNBA, or pimping out prostitutes (madams). Once women dominated these positions, but now they are mostly men.

Chapter 2: Why Should Suicide Bombers Buy Life Insurance

This chapter first discusses the birth defects that occur in children who were in utero during Ramadan, if you are Muslim and born in a certain month you are more likely to have birth defects or learning disabilities. Of course this goes back to the pregnant women fasting during Ramadan, which changes each year due to the lunar calendar. (58) The chapter also discusses the fact that the best doctors have the highest death rate, because they get the sickest patients. Female ER doctors are better at keeping their patients alive.

When physician were asked who the best ER doctors were, the doctors they chose were not better at lowering death rates. They were better at spending less money on the patients. This also looks at chemotherapy and how ineffective it really is. (84) It usually only prolongs a person's life by a couple of months. The cancer survival rates are essentially unchanged since Nixon declared a "war on cancer" a half century ago. Cancer patients make up 20% of all Medicare cases, but use 40% of the Medicare medication budget. (85) Another idea that this chapter covers is how children born in the beginning of the year tend to be better in sports, because they are bigger that the other children born later in that year. If a boy is born in January and another is born in December of that same year, they will usually pick the boy born in January because he will bigger (since he was born 11 mos. earlier).

The chapter gets its title, because of the study that shows that terrorist banking habits are all similar. Their habit creates a useful algorithm based on the patterns that send them apart from the general population. This algorithm is used to identify potential terrorists. The algorithm included the person having either a Muslim first or last name or both, the age range 26-35 years old, own a mobile phone, be a student, rent a home (not own) lived in close proximity to a mosque, do not have a savings account, unlikely to withdraw cash on a Friday afternoon, or do not buy life insurance.(94) So basically if a terrorist wanted to throw people off their trail...buying life insurance would help.

Chapter 3: Unbelievable Stories About Apathy and Altruism

This chapter is mainly showing the reader how human behavior, namely altruism and apathy, also drives economics. The chapter talks about the murder of young woman named Kitty Genovesse in 1964. Originally the story in the media talked about this woman was assaulted three times and murdered by the same man within a 35 minute time period. Thirty-eight people witnessed this crime, yet nobody did anything to stop it. These people were blasted in the newspaper for their apathy saying they represent "a new low in human civilization".(99) As it turned out these facts were not correct. Police miscommunication led the media to report the wrong facts. There were only 2 attacks at 3:20 am and there were not 38 witnesses. ( The police were called and in fact the man was captured by police due to neighbor interaction. (131)

Also it was discovered that crime had been on the rise. It started in the 1950's and throughout the 60's and 70's it kept rising. They took a look at television to see if



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