It seems intuitively obvious that the child car seat is a great solution to the problem of safely transporting your child from A to B. Statistician Steven Levitt offers us some surprisingly counterintuitive data, that shows, particularly for children older than 2 we may have been thinking about it wrongly.

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.


Who is he

“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


Discussion Questions

1. What does Levitt’s story of dread disease turn out to be about?

2. To what does Levitt ascribe the change of the old cheaper solution for children over 2 years?

3. What did Levitt’s analysis of the data show?

4. What is the dollar amount of the economic penalty of mandated car seats for children?

5.  Levitt shows that the data from crash tests give no great evidence of improvement (reduction of fatalities) when car seats are properly employed for children older than 2. What do you think this data mean?

6. Does legislation of all kinds intrude too far into our lives? Defend you answer with reference to Levitt’s talk.


Surprising stats about child car seats with Steven Levitt


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