Steven Levitt's eye-opening Freakonomics took economic theory into the real world of suburban parenting and urban drug gangs, turning conventional wisdom upside-down.

Why you should listen

With his 2005 book Freakonomics (co-authored with Stephen Dubner, a writer who profiled him for the New York Times), Steven Levitt carried hardcore economic method into the squishy real world and produced a pop-culture classic. Freakonomics is both an economics textbook and a series of cautionary tales about the fallacy of conventional wisdom. Levitt examines the links between real-world events, and finds many instances where the data simply doesn't back up popular belief.

He asks provocative questions: If selling crack is so lucrative, why do dealers live with their mothers? Does parental doting really improve children's test scores? Did New York City's crime rate really drop because of police tactics (or population trends)? His controversial answers stir debate, and sometimes backlash.

Read Steven Levitt's Reddit AMA >>

What others say

“Imagine a whip-smart economist with a sprawling imagination. Now imagine he's 9 years old and wants to know everything. That is the basic profile of Steven Levitt.” — Time

Steven Levitt’s TED talks

Steven Levitt on the TED Blog
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Are children's carseats necessary? Steven Levitt on TED.com

June 24, 2008

Economist Steven Levitt shares provocative data that shows carseats are no more effective than seatbelts in protecting kids from dying in cars. However, during the Q&A, he makes one crucial caveat. (Recorded July 2005 in Oxford, UK. Duration: 19:04.) Watch Steven Levitt’s talk on TED.com, where you can download it, rate it, comment on it […]

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Vote for your favorite public intellectuals

May 1, 2008

Not to be outdone by the Time 100, the journals Foreign Policy and Prospect have together released a list of the Top 100 public intellectuals — with voting. Many TEDTalks favorites appear on the list, and you can help choose the eventual top 20 by voting for your very own top 5. From Foreign Policy‘s […]

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"Crack economics" researcher tells his story

January 13, 2008

Stephen Levitt calls him the “main character” in his TEDTalk on crack economics: Sudhir Venkatesh, the young grad student who infiltrated a Chicago crack-dealing gang. His research brought back reams of sociological data — and offers an unfiltered glimpse into gang life. In his new book, Gang Leader for a Day, Venkatesh writes about his […]

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Quotes from Steven Levitt