Freakonomics.com is a financial and economics blog created by economist Steven Levitt and journalist Stephen Dubner. A spin-off of the book with the same title, Freakonomics reveals “the hidden side of everything” and explores the unintended consequences and hidden correlations of financial policies, education, health care, social issues and even sports, using statistical and behavioral economic models.
Freakonomics.com has been rated by Time magazine as one of the top-25 financial blogs because of its application of research economics to everyday, relatable life. It covers a wide range of topics from whether attending college is worth its payoff (it is) to if playing a big game at home is really an advantage in professional sports (also, yes). They explore these topics by applying economic factors and using research done all around the world. A topic they have visited a few times is the U.S. health care efficiency in organ donation. Levitt and Dubner, as well as other blog contributors, discussed the faults in the current donor system the U.S. has in place, alternative solutions and comparisons of other countries’ systems and their successes and failures. The blog posts are easy to understand, even for those who don’t have extensive knowledge of economics or the financial industry.
Although Freakonomics covers many timely topics, it doesn’t act as a news site, so it doesn’t continually update the blog with up-to-the-minute financial or political news as some other financial blogs do. It does, however, feature recent studies on a continual basis. For example, the latest post is about a new paper in the American Economic Review on how Americans are inconsistent when considering financial risk in choosing health insurance and 401(k) plans.
If you want to read about specific topics, there is a search box in the top-right corner of each page that will show a list of blogs that include the word you type in the box. For example, typing “investing” in the search box brought up blog posts “Market Volatility Has Doubled: What’s in Your Portfolio,” “Investing in Human Capital” and “My Target-Date Fund Is Bigger Than Yours.”
As a complement to the blog, Freakonomics also features podcasts, which you can download straight from the site. Podcasts usually consist of Levitt and Dubner discussing a study, topic or economic model, such as the cobra effect, an economic theory that suggests certain governmental policies set in place to correct a wrong, actually have much worse unintended consequences. A podcast from a few years ago featured Peter Buffett, Warren Buffett’s son, discussing growing up with the third-richest man in the world.
The strength of this blog is that it will spark the interest of anyone, no matter their extent of financial knowledge because there are no limitations on economic theories. With that said, this is also the weakness of the blog: Theories are not set in stone, so if you’re looking for financial advice, this is not the place to go. If you’re looking for the hidden side of your decisions, however, Freakonomics will prove that reading their blog will incur no unintended consequences.