John Stossel is Superfreakin'

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There's a new 20/20 John Stossel special on tonight at 10 Eastern with Freakonomics authors Steven Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner. You can watch a clip online.

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  1. I got an A in Levitt’s class. It was definitely my favorite undergraduate class. That combined with the manliness that exudes from Stossel’s mustache will ensure I watch tonight.

  2. Damn! There’s a White Sox game tonight. I’ll miss Stossel again.

  3. Thanks for the heads-up. Now, if only someone would give me a heads-up the next time They Live is on, so I don’t find it halfway through on Cinemax…

  4. 2:1

    That’s the ratio of WNBA fans to White Sox fans.

    2

    The number of WNBA fans.

    Go Cubs

  5. 1

    That’s the number of Chicago World Series Champions in the last 87 years.

    0

    That’s the number of Cubs champion teams in the last 87 years.

    Go go White Sox!

  6. Suck.

    That’s what baseball does.

    For you real sports fans out there, the NHL playoffs start a week from today. Hockey Rules.

  7. That’s the ratio of WNBA fans to White Sox fans.

    Another clueless cubs fan. It’s not surprising though, most cubs fans are.

    Few things give me as much pleasure in life as watching whiney ass wrigley field fans (since most “cubs fans” could care less whether the cubs win or lose — as long as there’s a party in the bleachers) try and attack the reigning World Series Champion Chicago White Sox! (God I love typing that)

    love,

    A life-long White Sox Fan.

    You can put it on the board!!
    YES!!!

  8. For you real sports fans out there, the NHL playoffs start a week from today. Hockey Rules.

    Go Flyers!

  9. sage – now we’re talking. I’m a Coyotes fan, living in Arizona and all, so I don’t know who I’m rooting for once the playoffs get underway. Usually it depends who’s on what team. I’m a big Steve Yzerman fan, so I just might have to root for the Wings, even though they’ve won a lot recently.

  10. There are cub fans and then there are people who watch sports.
    At least we no longer have to suffer the incessant whining over how the Red Sox haven’t won the WS recently

  11. “Another clueless cubs fan. It’s not surprising though, most cubs fans are.

    Few things give me as much pleasure in life as watching whiney ass wrigley field fans (since most “cubs fans” could care less whether the cubs win or lose — as long as there’s a party in the bleachers) try and attack the reigning World Series Champion Chicago White Sox! (God I love typing that)”

    It was a freakin joke malaka.

    Don’t get your panties in a bunch over it.

  12. Lowdog,

    How’s “Angels and Demons?” I also forgot to ask if you have read “Deception Point” too. That’s a good read. He says up front that all the gadgets that are depicted in that book are real.

  13. I haven’t had a chance to get much further than the last time we “talked”.

    Have not read Deception Point. If I get through Angels and Demons and like it enough, maybe I’ll check it out.

  14. Funny thread. Only one post on topic.
    (White Sox still rule! but, for the record, I do root for the Cubs. I have to for the sake of my marriage. They look good this year.)

  15. Sports suck. Economics is where it’s at, man.

    Far out.

  16. Economics. Far-freakin’ out!

  17. For you real sports fans out there, the NHL playoffs start a week from today. Hockey Rules.

    Agreed.

    Go Flyers!

    No way ChicagoTom, you’re stuck with the lowly Hawks…

    Go Redwings!

    Thanks for the Stossel heads-up, sounds quite interesting. Not interesting enough to cancel a date over 🙂 but interesting enough to remember to record it.

  18. Freakonomics is the perfect book for Cubs fans, who seemingly are not yet ready for real economics… They got Ann Martin now? (rain delay)

  19. Hmm unwanted babys keep our streets clean…even if this is true i find it strange that abortions would be even a blip compared to the effect of “the pill” which would have a much larger effect in reducing unwanted children.

    That the researcher does not even mention the availablitlty of the pill starting at the same time as the growing legalization of abortion seems to me that he has an aganda.

    (and roe vs wade is not a good point to start becouse many states had legalized abortion well before the supreme court decision)

  20. (and roe vs wade is not a good point to start becouse many states had legalized abortion well before the supreme court decision)

    ISTR states that had legalized abortion earlier had a corresponding earlier drop in crime.

  21. Hmm, Freakonomics…opened that book up and found a fantastic claim in .002 seconds that simply doesn’t hold up, and if it does, the author needs to provide his proof: Legalized abortion directly resulted in the low crime rate. Problems abound with this claim.

    It assumes many logical conclusions. First, it assumes that a huge percentage of aborted fetuses were destined for a life of crime. Second, this further suggests that all the mothers having abortions were more than likely poor, likely to be bad parents living in circumstances which would generate said criminal behavior. Author provided no numbers that I could find. None.

    I mean, who cares what your position on abortion is– you could just as easily claim that this rock I’m holding is keeping the tigers away (get it?). Or better yet, you could coincide the lack of crime with an increase and proliferation of fast food joints across the country. As McDonalds served more and more millions, the crime rate dropped…

    It’s reasonable to assume that legalized abortion would have *some* effect on crime, but to attribute the entire drop in crime to abortion altogether is dubious. There are hundres of variables which could realistically contribute. Improved healthcare, growth in personal wealth, continuing change of culture in post-industrial economy, anti-crime legislation (for god’s sake), expansion of media outlets and reporting styles, public awareness of root causes of crime… need I go on?

    For such a ‘groundbreaking’ book to falter so quickly, I snapped it closed and never looked back.

  22. ISTR states that had legalized abortion earlier had a corresponding earlier drop in crime.

    Stop polluting the thread with facts.

  23. Little Known Fact dept:

    Co-incidence is not the same as causality.

    (please note- this is not directed at any specific person or comment here) I read Freakonomics, and the claim is extremely thought-provoking, but I’m not sure that it can be accepted uncritically. Too many uncontrolled variables. What Paul said.

    ps- lacrosse; it’s not for sissies

  24. I clicked on this thread with the idea “how long will it take someone to get mad over the abortion comment in Freaknomics.” Look, the guy was putting forth an interesting hypothesis with facts to back it up. In th end it may or may not bear up, but it is sad to see people go so “please don’t believe his suggestion” on they guy. Its like these folks who run around so worried someone will believe the assertions in the Da Vinci code. The thing about some religious folks is that they already have the answers to several questions before they start. Freakonomics is not for such people. Maybe Thomas Aquinas instead.
    It’s all so moot. Let’s say abortion did provide a social good, like lowering the crime rate. Does that mean, necessarily, that it should be ok? Of course not. Those opposed and for the death penalty take the position they do because they feel it is inherently wrong or just. Moral issues can’t be resolved by empirical claims.
    As for sports, I’m curious how libertarians feel about pro wrestling. I should think they are against it because it is ‘planned.’

  25. Now, if only someone would give me a heads-up the next time They Live is on, so I don’t find it halfway through on Cinemax…

    I had the same problem. Finally broke down and bought the DVD – if only there were a Monstervision version!

  26. Paul, why don’t you read at least that one chapter before railing against the conclusion?

  27. “It’s reasonable to assume that legalized abortion would have *some* effect on crime, but to attribute the entire drop in crime to abortion altogether is dubious. There are hundres of variables which could realistically contribute. Improved healthcare, growth in personal wealth, continuing change of culture in post-industrial economy, anti-crime legislation (for god’s sake), expansion of media outlets and reporting styles, public awareness of root causes of crime… need I go on?”

    Well he never once stated that the entire drop in crime was a result of legalized abortion. I thought he made that clear not only in the book but also in the video clip with Stossel.

  28. First, it assumes that a huge percentage of aborted fetuses were destined for a life of crime.

    No it doesn’t. In 1973 there were 750,000 abortions, by 1980 it was 1.6 million abortions a year. It would most certainly not require a huge percentage of those tens of millions to be destined for a life of crime to have a significant impact on crime.

    Second, this further suggests that all the mothers having abortions were more than likely poor, likely to be bad parents living in circumstances which would generate said criminal behavior. Author provided no numbers that I could find. None.

    I guess you didn’t look very hard. In two minutes I found that he cites one study that found an aborted fetus in the early years of legalized abortion would have been 50% more likely than average to live in poverty and 60% more likely to live in a single-parent home (p138). He further cites that a single-parent household roughly doubles the likelihood of a child to commit crimes (p139).

    Or better yet, you could coincide the lack of crime with an increase and proliferation of fast food joints across the country. As McDonalds served more and more millions, the crime rate dropped…

    Oh come on, you can’t get away with something as ridiculous as that when you haven’t even read the argument. All that statement does is make your whole criticism look like a joke. A highly educated, credentialed and respected economist spends many years studying data and writing peer-reviewed papers on an interesting, thought-provoking subject, then someone else comes along, throws out an inane statement like that, and thinks he has made a clever point? Brilliant! Two seconds and no thought to debunk years of actual research.

    It’s reasonable to assume that legalized abortion would have *some* effect on crime, but to attribute the entire drop in crime to abortion altogether is dubious.

    Indeed it is, and if you’d read the book or watched the report you’d realize he does no such thing. Even from just watching last night’s brief coverage you would have realized that he claims his research suggests that 40% of the drop is attributable to locking up more criminals, 15% from the end of the crack epidemic and 10% from having more police on the streets. Only about 30% of the drop does he attribute to the legalization of abortion.

    There are hundres of variables which could realistically contribute

    Yes and he spends considerable time in the book looking at some of the more important ones. I mean come on, did you just assume he wouldn’t realize this and have spent some of those years of research giving the other potential causes significant thought?

    need I go on?

    Not until you bother to understand what you’re criticizing.

    I don’t know if his conclusion is right or not – I think there are some substantive criticisms out there by people who have taken the research seriously and actually read it. Whether it holds up in the long run I have no idea and no stake in one way or the other. However, misstating the author’s claims, ignoring the actual supporting evidence and throwing out silly remarks about fast-food do not count as reasonable criticisms. If you’re going to take issue with a serious argument supported by years of research from someone with substantial credentials, you ought to spend the time to actually understand it first.

    I snapped it closed and never looked back.

    Obviously.

  29. Little Known Fact dept:

    Co-incidence is not the same as causality.

    Little known to whom? Not to anyone around here, since it has been repeated ad nauseam, and certainly not to the author.

  30. If any one is so interested, you can read his Quarterly Journal of Economics paper about the abortion-crime link here:

    http://pricetheory.uchicago.edu/levitt/Papers/DonohueLevittTheImpactOfLegalized2001.pdf

    He addresses some of your concerns, but it’s not a small big paper

  31. Paul, I want to buy your rock.

  32. Freakonomics

    I love that volume.

  33. No it doesn’t. In 1973 there were 750,000 abortions, by 1980 it was 1.6 million abortions a year. It would most certainly not require a huge percentage of those tens of millions to be destined for a life of crime to have a significant impact on crime.

    But what number do you attribute to that? By even naming a number, you’re ascribing behavior on people not yet born. The proliferation of welfare could have likely had a bigger direct impact. The inverse of the situation is, once you start ascribing percentages to his argument, the speculation is even wilder. It’s far more truthful(tm) to simply say “a large impact on crime rates due to abortion” than to start suggesting actual numbers.

    guess you didn’t look very hard. In two minutes I found that he cites one study that found an aborted fetus in the early years of legalized abortion would have been 50% more likely than average to live in poverty and 60% more likely to live in a single-parent home (p138). He further cites that a single-parent household roughly doubles the likelihood of a child to commit crimes (p139)

    No, I did not look hard, and I admit that. I did hear the actual numbers when I watched the video, but I remained even less convinced. But problems with these numbers abound.

    I found problems with his theory because it seemed to me, that crime waves took place amongst groups with the highest abortion rate: urban poor black communities. I didn’t do months of study- it just seemed obvious to me. But wait, someone ‘smarter’ than me noticed this too:

    I mean come on, did you just assume he wouldn’t realize this and have spent some of those years of research giving the other potential causes significant thought?

    Funny you should mention this. Levitt now admits he forgot pivotal data when constructing his abortion-cut-crime theory because other economists have found, and pointed out the problems in his calculations.

    Here’s a snippet from a very good critique:

    Unfortunately, in his original specification of his analysis, Dr. Levitt only looked at crime rates in 1985 and 1997 (and only looked at the overly crude age groups of over and under 25), so he completely missed how his theory had failed its most obvious historical test.

    Second, this vast youth murder wave took off first specifically in the demographic group that had the highest legal abortion rate, urban blacks. As Donohue and Levitt wrote in 2001, under their theory, the opposite was supposed to happen: ??Fertility declines for black women are three times greater than for whites (12 percent compared to 4 percent). Given that homicide rates of black youths are roughly nine times higher than those of white youths, racial differences in the fertility effects of abortion are likely to translate into greater homicide reductions.? Instead, the black to white youth homicide offending rate almost doubled in the first cohort born after legalization. So, Levitt-Donohue failed the first two historical tests in massive fashion.

    Indeed it is, and if you’d read the book or watched the report you’d realize he does no such thing.

    As I said, I admit I missed numbers in the book, but I did catch the numbers in the video before my post, and their existence merely emboldened my argument. He’d have been better off throwing the bombshell out there, than actually trying to justify it with numbers.
    Or better yet, you could coincide the lack of crime with an increase and proliferation of fast food joints across the country. As McDonalds served more and more millions, the crime rate dropped…

    Oh come on, you can’t get away with something as ridiculous as that when you haven’t even read the argument.

    I have read the argument, as have a whole passle of other economists, and they find his theory wanting. In my opinion, Levitt was on to something interesting, yes. But what he did, is he created a complex flow-chart of his abortion theory, but had a HUGE hole in the middle, so he stuck in what we engineers call ‘the miracle box’– a little box that says “a miracle occurs here” and then the whole thing tied together nicely.

    I’ll reiterate there are way too many variables- even if you follow the abortion line. How much abortion was sex selective, considering most crime was committed by young men? What about death rates amongs young black males who were, as we recall, dying at a very high rate due to crime itself. This begins to point to the kind of occams razor viewpoint of the high crime period of the eighties: it burned itself out through a slew of circumstances that came together resulting in a lowered crime rate.

    Not until you bother to understand what you’re criticizing.

    I do understand the scientific method. And anyone who has a strong understanding of said method should immediately be skeptical of the wild claim by Levitt. Even if it turns out that abortion did have a ‘strong’ impact on crime (which I don’t believe it did)- that’s a very chancy claim. The claim is more intuitive than empirical. Intuitively, I actually agree with Levitt that some…*some* impact on crime could be attributed to abortion. But the rates that he claims? The evidence just isn’t there.

  34. I liked Levitt’s book. It was a fun read, but Paul has a point in that Levitt has too much faith in the methodology of economics for answering questions it can’t really answer (which includes most economic questions, by the way). Levitt shouldn’t be dismissed out of hand, but his assertions should be taken with a big grain of salt.

    Stossel, on the other hand, can be dismissed out of hand in that he is very dishonest in his journalistic approach to topics.

  35. He’s super-freakin’, YOW!

    Temptations Sing!

  36. Paul,
    Donohue and Levitt wrote a response to Foote and Goetz’s criticism that is also available online. Here is the paper. They do not believe that this additional evidence undermines the conclusion they reached in their 2001 paper.

    science,
    While I find large aspects of neoclassical economics problematic, your criticism seems far too broad. What is this uniform methodology of economics, and why is it so consistently inappropriate?

  37. Isn’t most common sense knowledge in our culture, from cancer risks to political opinions to epidemiological studies, based on the same statistical tools?

    If we can start to question Levitt’s work, what other correlations should we question?

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