Freakonomics Movie

Last night I watched the “Freakonomics” movie (see the trailer below). It’s a lot like the book but animated and includes author commentary. Each chapter is directed by a different documentary film maker, which gives each section a little different look and feel. It’s worth a watch on a rainy Sunday (especially since you can stream it through Netflix).

Freakonomics the book was released while I was in grad school. There was quite a buzz. On one hand, I was glad my friends and family got a glimpse of what economists might study. On the other hand, I had many professors who didn’t quite buy in (much like John DiNardo, Ariel Rubinstein, and Arnold Kling). What do you think of Freakonomics? How might we evaluate such studies before we try to implement changes based on them?

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5 Responses to Freakonomics Movie

  1. Allison says:

    I haven’t read the book, but I saw the film last week. It was decent enough, but since they farmed out the segments to different directors the overall effect was a lack of continuity. Some of the segments were light years better than the others. And the interviews with the authors between the segments came off as self-congratulatory.

  2. Ann Zerkle says:

    @Allison – I kind of liked the different types of segments, but I agree with the different levels of proficiency. The one about crime had neat animation while the one about bribing high schoolers was somewhat “vanilla.”

  3. Skyler says:

    I tend to be less than convinced by the Levitt’s neat explanations of how the incentives structures in their stories work. If people were perfectly rational than incentives might be the only thing that motivated them. In this world, we could have figured out the right mix of incentives to create a utopia. There has to be more complexity to his stories than Levitt admits. Other economists such as Ronald Coase, Douglas North, Vernon Smith, and Elinor Ostrom offer more satisfying insights about what motivates people.

  4. Did the movie cover Levitt’s claim that abortion caused a decrease in crime rates? There have been numerous subsequent studies that challenge this assertion, and I’d be interested in how they deal with this issue in the movie.

  5. Ann Zerkle says:

    @Morgan- They didn’t address the other views of the abortion-crime connection. In large part, they just rehash what the book says about it. I’m glad you pointed out the controversy there. It’s not just folks who have moral objections to abortion (something outside the scope of this blog). It involves researchers who have tested the same hypothesis and come up with no evidence.


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