The freakonomic take on bird flu

Freakonomics.jpgSteven Levitt, the economist, and Stephen Dubner, the journalist – authors of Freakonomics – appeared on the BBC Radio 4 Today programme yesterday.

The pair are (in)famous for their alternative explanations of historical phenomena, based on their application of economic tools of analysis to social patterns. For example, they’ve argued that the 50 per cent fall in crime in the USA in the last 15 years was caused by the legalisation of abortion in the 1970’s. Unwanted children are known to be at increased risk of becoming criminals, and so the reduction in the number of unwanted kids has meant less crime (so the logic goes).

In this interview they suggest that, so long as it doesn’t spread to humans, the threat of bird flu here in the UK may paradoxically lead to health benefits as a result of millions of anxious people washing their hands more often.


  1. Posted April 12, 2006 at 2:22 am | Permalink

    For the record, the Levitt argument is that about a quarter to a third of the 50 percent drop in crime was due to legalized abortion, while most of the rest was caused by hiring more police officers, increased incarceration, and the end of the crack epidemic. Dubner makes that clear url I provided.

  2. christian
    Posted April 12, 2006 at 9:21 am | Permalink

    Thanks for clarifying that – I don’t think it was clear from the radio interview.

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