Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Freakonomics and Freedomnomics

I enjoyed the Freakonomics book, and now just just got its rival, Freedomnomics. Freakonomics is based on the work of hot-shot economist Steve Levitt, who is mainly famous for the theory that legalized abortion reduces crime. Freedomnomics is written by John Lott, who is best known for his study showing that guns deter crime.

Both Levitt and Lott have had their embarrassments. Levitt had to admit that his abortion study had a critical coding error that made the abortion/crime effect seem much larger. Lott once lost some data with a hard disc crash.

Levitt trashed Lott in his book and elsewhere, and now Levitt has had to retract some of what he said. Levitt put down a Lott article as not being peer-reviewed, when in fact it was and Levitt himself was one of the reviewers!

Update: Sailer has more info.

Update: Here is more on the abortion-crime dispute:
Further, in 2005, The Economist magazine reported that two economists with the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston determined that the Levitt-Donohue study was filled with statistical errors. The magazine opined, "To be politically incorrect is one thing; to be simply incorrect, quite another."

Levitt was traveling this week and deferred comment to Donohue.

In a written statement, Donohue did not comment on either study. He instead raised questions concerning Lott's research methods and said, "I am a social scientist, however, so Lott's behavior has in my mind, put him outside the bounds of scientific discourse."
I think that it is a little strange that Levitt uses a spokesman to make a personal attack on Lott, instead of just defending his own research.


John Lott said...

Thanks for the note. I can't comment on the case, but I will say that all the data lost in the crash was replaced so that academics at well over a hundred universities. The survey was also redone and that data is available at www.johnlott.org.

Anonymous said...

by "spokesman" I assume you are referring to Donohue. Perhaps you should actually look into the information you are talking about before making comment. Donohue is a law professor from Yale University who co-wrote the articles on the abortion-crime issue with Levitt. So before you go trying to present a person negatively for have a spokesman speech for them, why didn't you check who that person is. I would so a co-author on the article would probably quite worthy of giving comments on it.

Roger said...

Yes, Donohue is a law professor and a co-author. I mention the "Levitt-Donohue study". Are you saying that Donohue's personal attacks are acceptable because he is a co-author? Or because he is a law professor?

Anonymous said...

I'm saying that it in incorrect to label his coauthor as a mere spokesman. Also, did you consider that this what not all that he said, but perhaps the most interesting thing he said in the opinion of the journalist?

Roger said...

Donohue is a law professor, and I am sure that he has plenty to say. In this case, he chose to make an ad hominem attack instead of addressing the merits. Since he is a law professor, I assume that he just tried to say the nastiest thing he could say, without getting sued for libel.

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