Freakonomics | Study Guide

Steven D. Levitt & Stephen J. Dubner

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Steven D. Levitt & Stephen J. Dubner | Biography

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Steven D. Levitt

Steven D. Levitt was born on May 29, 1967, and grew up in St. Paul, Minnesota. After graduating from Harvard University in 1989 with a degree in economics, he worked as a consultant for Fortune 500 companies. Fortune magazine annually publishes a list of the 500 most profitable companies in the United States. Levitt returned to school in 1994 to earn a PhD from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and went on to become a professor at the University of Chicago.

In 2003 he won the John Bates Clark Medal, an award given to a significant American economist under age 40. He has also been named by Time magazine as one of the "100 People Who Shape Our World" for his work in economics. As an economist, Levitt is best known for his controversial research linking legalized abortion to lower crime rates, the first topic covered in Freakonomics. He has also written on various economic topics from politics to sports in over 60 academic publications. After the success of his best-selling book Freakonomics, Levitt coauthored the sequel SuperFreakonomics (2009) with Stephen J. Dubner.

Stephen J. Dubner

Born on August 26, 1963, Stephen J. Dubner grew up in Duanesburg, New York, as the youngest of eight siblings. Dubner's mother was a first cousin of Ethel Greenglass Rosenberg, who along with her husband, Julius, was accused of spying for the Communists and executed for treason in 1953. Dubner's parents both converted from Judaism to Catholicism and became fervent Catholics, the religion in which Dubner was raised. As an adult he converted back to Judaism and wrote about his religious experiences in Turbulent Souls: A Catholic Son's Return to His Jewish Family (1998).

Dubner attended Appalachian State University in North Carolina, from which he graduated in 1984. Although he aspired to be a musician and was in a promising rock band, he quit playing music to earn a Master of Fine Arts degree (MFA) in writing from Columbia University in 1990 and subsequently became an editor for the New York Times Magazine and frequent contributor on radio and television shows. The books he coauthored, Freakonomics and SuperFreakonomics, have sold more than five million copies and have been translated into 35 languages. Freakonomics was an overnight international best seller and won a variety of esteemed industry awards. Its popularity gave rise to a blog, a documentary, and a public radio show hosted by Dubner.

The two authors met when Dubner, as part of his research for a book, interviewed Levitt. Dubner was impressed with Levitt's casual attitude toward his field and his interest in life's "riddles" that can be traced to economic origins.

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