I had heard so much about this book, yet what prompted me to buy it were not all the discussions that I have heard. I bought it after I read the first chapter. It was really cool and reminiscent of Tipping Point. Maybe because it began with a discussion on the drop of crime rate in NewYork city and Tipping point also had an elaborate discussion on this subject.
When I closed the book, I could clearly pin-point how they were different. Their main difference lies in the fact that Malcolm Gladwell is a writer whereas Levitt&Dubner are economists. They are so much in love with their data, they just don’t seem to know were to stop. Especially the last chapter, where they examine the correlation between the name of an individual and how successful he is, they go overboard with the data. In the final analysis, Freakonomics comes across as more convincing (After reading both the books, I am now convinced that abortion and not ‘broken windows’ was the cause of the drop in crime rate in New York), but Tipping Point is a much more interesting read.
To me, personally the most interesting insight from the book was “What makes a perfect parent”. A study was conducted by U.S department of education called “Early Childhood Longitudinal Study”. It arrives at a correlation between child’s personal circumstances and his performance in school. Out of 16 factors that were analyzed 8 were shown to have a strong correlation and 8 did not have any correlation. You would be surprised. For example, there is strong positive correlation between how the child performed to the fact that there are lots of books in his home. However there seems to be no connection between his performance and whether his parents read to him everyday. What I found most encouraging was the fact that it did not matter if the mother was working or quit her job after child birth. As a working mother, who had to deal with the guilt of leaving my son and going to work from when he was 3 months old, I was really thrilled to learn this.
In the final analysis, the authors conclude, what you are as a parent matters more then what you do”.
Another insight from the book which I found very appealing; The fact that people are inherently honest and good. Being a compulsive believer in the goodness of mankind, I found this conclusion very heart warming. This finding was from a unique business model which an economist Paul Feldman adopted for his business (you can read the full extract from the book here). The authors say that most economists will find this surprising but not Adam Smith, one of the pioneers of contemporary economics. In his first book, The Theory of Moral Sentiments Smith writes “How selfish so ever man may be supposed, there is evidently some principles in his nature which interest him in the fortune of others, and render their happiness necessary to him, though he derives nothing from it, except the pleasure of seeing it”
On that feel-good note, let me end my review.