April 29, 2005

Levitt appears on Comedy Central

Raising the University of Chicago out of its dark, nerdy depths and into the limelight of pop culture, Steven Levitt, professor of economics, appeared on Comedy Central's The Daily Show With Jon Stewart to talk about his book, Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything.

Defending the title, Levitt explained, "I'm not a rogue like Saddam Hussein; I'm a rogue like the cat in Shrek 2."

"We take on a lot of questions that are morally charged, ethically charged, but we treat them in an amoral way," Levitt said, explaining the motives that drove him and co-author Stephen Dubner.

Stewart was particularly interested in Levitt's theory about the correlation between the legalization of abortion and the decrease in violent crimes during the 1990s and 2000s. Levitt explained that unwanted children would grow up in an environment that induced crimes when they were about 20 years old, which accounted for the 30 percent drop in violent crime in states that legalized abortion—about 20 years after Roe v. Wade was passed.

As Levitt explained the importance of having the same information as authorities, Stewart said, "You know, I was happy until you walked into this room. Now I realize that my doctor could be totally fucking me over."

The media have highly praised Freakonomics; it received positive reviews from The Wall Street Journal and Publisher's Weekly as well as from other notable publications.