Pre-thinking:

Stephen starts with a history of gang behavior going back to the mid 1980s, before gangs became involved with serious drug sales and traces the drug sales over time.

Why you should listen:

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:

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.

Questions:

  1. Compare the conclusions reached by Dubner and Levitt with those of Dan Gilbert http://www.ted.com/talks/dan_gilbert_you_are_always_changing are they similar or different? What could account for this?
  1. Is the Thug Life a happy or glamorous life? If not, why did the illusion exist?
  1. Discuss this statement that crack cocaine has had the biggest impact on American inner city behavior of any invention during the past 25 years (bigger than cell phones, the internet or any rock star)?
  1. What does he mean when he says, “The gang is just like McDonalds”? What is your opinion?
  1. What is the motivation for rank and file gang members being “foot soldiers”? As you have seen, it was not money
  1. What do economists learn from Levitt and Dubner’s research on gang behavior?

The freakonomics of crack dealing with Steven Levitt

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