Superfreakonomics (1,5?)

Have read the first 100 pages now, a few interesting passages from the book:

1) “In the early 1910s, the Department of Justice conducted a census of 310 cities in 26 states to tally the number of prostitutes in the United States: “We arrive at the conservative figure of approximately 200,000 women in the regular army of vice.”
At the time, the American population included 22 million women between the ages of fifteen and forty-four. If the DOJ numbers are to be believed, 1 og every 110 women in that age range was a prostitute. But most prostitutes, about 85 percent, were in their twenties. In that age range, 1 of every 50 American women was a prostitute.
The market was particularly strong in Chicago, which had more than 1000 known brothels.”

2) “Teaching has traditionally been dominated by women. A hundred years ago, it was one of the few jobs available to women that didn’t involve cooking, cleaning, or other menial labor. (Nursing was another such profession, but teaching was far more prominent, with six teachers for every nurse.) At the time, nearly 6 percent of the female work-force were teachers, trailing only laborers (19 percent), servants (16 percent), and laundresses (6,5 percent). […] As of 1940, an astonishing 55 percent of all college-educated female workers in their thirties were employed as teachers.”

Yes, the teacher numbers are interesting, but damn, so are the others – a 100 years ago, appr. 1 in 6 women employed were servants! Here’s a bit more:

“In 1960, about 40 percent of female teachers scored in the top quintile of IQ and other aptitude tests, with only 8 percent in the buttom. Twenty years later, fewer than half as many were in the top quintile, with more than twice as many in the buttom.”

Combine this fact and the development since then with the Flynn effect and you get at least part of the explanation why teachers were more respected in the past. They, and especially the females, were much smarter on average.

3) “Alan Krueger combed through a Hezbollah newsletter called Al-Ahd (The Oath) and compiled biographical details on 129 dead shahids (martyrs). He then compared them with men from the same age bracket in the general populace of Lebanon. The terrorists, he found, were less likely to come from a poor family (28 percent versus 33 percent) and more likely to have at least a high-school education (47 percent versus 38 percent).
A similar analysis of Palestinian suicide bombers by Claude Berrebi found that only 16 percent came from impoverished families, versus more than 30 percent of male Palestinians overall. More than 60 percent of the bombers, meanwhile, had gone beyond high school, versus 15 percent of the populace.
In general, Krueger found, “terrorists tend to be drawn from well-educated, middle-class or high-income families”.”

4) “The beauty of terrorism – if you’re a terrorist – is that you can succeed even by failing. […] Let’s say it takes an average of one minute to reomve and replace your shoes in the airport security line. In the United States alone, this procedure happens roughly 560 million times per year. Five hundred and sixty million minutes equals more than 1,065 years – which, divided by 77.8 years (the average U.S. life expectancy at birth), yields a total of nearly 14 person-lives. So even though Richard Reid [the failed shoe bomber] failed to kill a single person, he levied a tax that is the time equivalent of 14 lives per year.”

5) “Until the 1960s, hospitals simply weren’t designed to treat emergencies. “If you brought someone to a hospital at night,” Feied [Craig Feied, according to the book ‘an emergency-medicine specialist’] says, “the doors would be locked. You’d ring the bell, a nurse would come down to see what you wanted. She might let you in, then she’d call the doctor at home, and he might or might not come in.” Ambulances were often run by the local mortuary. It is hard to think of a better example of misaligned incentives: a funeral director who is put in charge of helping a patient not die!”


“In a given year, an excellent ER doctor’s patients will have a twelve-month death rate that is nearly 10 percent lower than the average. This may not sound like much, but in a busy ER with tens of thousands of patients, an excellent doctor might save six or seven lives a year relative to the worst doctor.”

‘No, it doesn’t sound like much and that really isn’t a big difference’ I’d say, unless you’re one of those six or seven marginal people of course. But the difference between the best and an average ER doctor seems to be quite small – it’s probably much bigger in other specialties. A Dane at the age of 30 can expect to live 8,5 years more if he’s never smoked than if he’s a heavy smoker, so a GP who’s good at making people stop smoking will save dozens of lives every year on that count alone.

6) “More than $40 billion is spent worldwide each year on cancer drugs.”

(I’d have thought the number was bigger than that)

“cancer patients make up 20 percent of Medicare cases but consume 40 percent of the Medicare drug budget.”

“A typical chemotherapy regime for non-small-cell lung cancer costs more than $40,000 but helps extend a patient’s life by an average of just two months.”

I like the book so far.


August 16, 2010 Posted by | Books, Cancer/oncology, Economics, education, History, IQ, Medicine | Leave a comment