Talk:Steven Levitt

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abortion effect[edit]

RichFarmer has twice added a large blockquote (so that is consists of about half of the main article text) of, and externally linked to, the Economist magazine on Levitt and Donohue's paper on Legalized abortion and crime effect. I cut down the original posting to one sentence linked to the internal article and reverted the second. This is a bio article, not an article on the effect of abortion upon crime rates. There already is such an article, Legalized abortion and crime effect, and extensive information about it should go there. (Note that RichFarmer and I appear to be working ourselves up over there, so I'm hardly an uninterested party in this.) The fact that the the working paper that the Economist article is discussing, and Levitt's reactions to it and the Economist article, are not mentioned, basically makes the extended quote using the Economist's storied attitude little more than a slam in my mind. Outside opinions are welcome. - BanyanTree 13:22, 13 January 2006 (UTC)

BanyanTree has twice cut out two additions that I made on Levitt. BT only provides an explanation for one of those cuts. He eliminates both the discussion from the Economist magazine and the discussion of other programming mistakes that he was accused of making in the American Economic Review. Many bios have similar quotes. The Economist magazine does a good job of providing a clear discussion and most economists will agree that the magazine is reputable. No response can be given for the second cut because no explanation for cutting it is given. This is important to understanding Levitt, if he is a careful researcher, and how he responds when people have discovered errors on multiple occasions.RichFarmer 23:41 13 January 2006
Ummm.. how? He has responded to it, but you have not given equal time to his response. Nor to the actual analysis that the Economist is referring to. You have chosen an extended passage showing the Economist's haughty attitude (Note that I have a subscription to the Economist, so am not arguing that it is wrong, but it does make a point of being as snide as possible, which is amusing but I would never put an extended quote in a Wikipedia article.) You have not added an analysis of his reaction to criticism; you have added a sarcastic interjection from a article without referring to his written response to it. Besides the fact that extended block quotes taking up a third of the total article that are externally linked is bad, it neither gives context nor rebuttal. Let me repeat: this is a bio article, not the article on abortion and crime, and extensive additions on that subject skew this article. This discussion should take place in the relevant article.
Well I am glad that you have an subscription to The Economist, then you know that they have a very good reputation for carefully explaining academic economics articles. They regularly go through recent research. THe magazine explains the problems in a straightforward way. Later in the article the magazine gets tough, but given Donohue and Levitt's claim that now the data set needs to be changed, this seems justified, but not the part that was quoted. Note that I tried compromising with a shorter quote. You also have not responded to the previous programming errors in other Levitt work. He also made changes in the data there also. Strikes many people as a pattern here. Readers should be given this account.RichFarmer 3:41 14 January 2006

I hope the changes I just made lay this issue to rest. A short, neutral summary is all that is required here - details should be (and are) in Legalized abortion and crime effect. The short quote from the Economist I put in is much more apposite. And unless there's a reason for removing the AER paragraph, leave it in. Rd232 talk 09:33, 14 January 2006 (UTC)

Levitt's response is uncited, and I want to read it. The article makes it sound like Levitt conceded he was wrong. I didn't think that was correct. —Preceding unsigned comment added by 68.197.200.140 (talk) 22:46, 7 July 2008 (UTC)


RichFarmer continues to revert the page to a version he/she likes as opposed to one that is factually correct and portrays Levitt and his career fairly. Compromise has nothing to do with factual correctness. The current version of the article includes the Economist quote as well as discussion of the two mistakes that Levitt has made. And like some other users, I do not understand why the Summary of Works has been removed.

RichFarmer keeps reinserting this claim:

Similarly, Ian Ayres and Steven Levitt's paper entitled "Measuring Positive Externalities from Unobservable Victim Precaution: An Empirical Analysis of Lojack," Quarterly Journal of Economics (1998) could not be found by others (e.g., John Lott, "Does a helping Hand Put Others at Risk?" Economic Inquiry, April 2000, p. 257).

This claim is a pure fabrication. There is no evidence for it. The cited paper does not say this. --TimLambert 11:13, 18 March 2006 (UTC)

Judging by the abstracts (Levitt paper, Lott paper), you're right. I believe your version is largely superior - some other editors seem too keen to dismiss Levitt's work with a broader brush than warranted. However, the list of papers in your version isn't suitable; the list should be cut down to just references, and the useful descriptions of the papers merged into a couple of paragraphs in the main text. Also, I like the longer version of the Economist quote ("moral turpitude") - it adds flavour. Rd232 talk 16:49, 18 March 2006 (UTC)
Dear Anonymous, I agree with rd232 that this page is not a discussion of each paper that was written (many academics have written 100 papers and books) and we had already list many papers, but an attempt to give to readers a general description of what is important and noteworthy about his work. You are right that we can not jeopardize the truth here, and that is why you should not be allowed to remove even the smallest critical notes of the work of Levitt. On the abortion work, Levitt was nailed by the economists at the fed of Boston. If people try to redo the estimates the way that Levitt said they must be done, and they cannot obtain his results, that seems important for talking about Levitt's work. Is the Economist magazine wrong? Is the Wall Street Journal wrong? Others have had similar problems with other papers. You can't just wish these significant problems to go away. As to TimLambert's claims about "fabrication," the Lott paper is known to many in law enforcement. It indicates on page 257: "I followed Ayres and Levitt's paper, which identifies when Lojack was adopted so that I could control for both a dummy variable for the presence of the law and a time trend for the nymber of years that the law was in effect. Although both variables implied that autotheft fell when Lojack was adopted, neither coefficient was statistically significant. Unfortunately, neither Ayres and Levitt nor Lojack were willing to share data on the number of Lojack devices sold." TimLambert must not have looked at the paper before he commented with his extremely strong bald claim of fabrication or he did not think that others would check it. In any case, it shows poor investigation abilities. RichFarmer 13:41 18 March 2006
Sorry, Rich, but cliches about glasshouses and stones spring to mind. The footnote you quote says it all: Unfortunately, neither Ayres and Levitt nor Lojack were willing to share data on the number of Lojack devices sold. Time is quite likely to be a bad proxy for the impact of lojack, and hence Lott not finding it statistically significant isn't surprising. I'm reverting to TimLambert's version as a better basis for future revision. Rd232 talk 23:20, 18 March 2006 (UTC)
Rd232, so why do you cut out or rewrite all the discussions of mistakes made by Levitt? What is wrong with the point made by The Economist or the WSJ? What is wrong with the mistake in the American Economic Review (and dispite claims to the contrary it was a programming mistake too)? By the way, if you look at the Ayres and Levitt paper you will see that they do there work two ways. They use time as a proxy and then they do it with the number of lojack devices. Lott was using time because that is the way that Ayres and Levitt said they did it and he could not reproduce their results. This is no different then the fed of Boston people or the McCrary point. The only common point that you all make is that any mistake by Levitt must not be discussed. In the first two cases, Levitt came back with a changed model. In the third, as far as I can tell he never responded. RichFarmer 19:18 18 March 2006
TimLambert has covered the Ayres+Levitt / Lott issue below. It is ludicrous to say that we are trying to prevent all discussion of Levitt errors - merely not to exaggerate their significance, or the importance of one or two papers (albeit one of them very controversial) in Levitt's body of work. Rd232 talk 21:26, 19 March 2006 (UTC)
Ayres and Levitt use number of years since Lojack was introduced to the market as well as Lojack sales as a proxy. This is not what Lott used -- he used a dummy variable and a trend variable. His model for crime was also different, since he was not trying to replicate Ayres and Levitt but test to see if including a measure of Lojack changes the results in his paper on minority police hiring. There is no support for your claim in Lott's paper. And in any case there have been so many errors found in Lott's other work, it would be wrong to rely on him as a source in any case. --TimLambert 08:48, 19 March 2006 (UTC)
You do not explain why you rewrote the section on the errors McCrary found. Explain why these computational errors McCrary found are not the same as those found by the fed of Boston people. On the other case, you go from stating that the Economic Inquiry paper did not do any of this to stating that Lott is not to be trusted. So what one is it? You are not consistent. Do you want to cut The Economist magazine quote because The Economist magazine is not to be trusted? RichFarmer 12:56 19 March 2006
I've reported you for breaching WP:3RR after a polite reminder. I also strongly object to your reversion of quite a lot of work I did this afternoon. (I've now added back the Economist quote which got lost along the way.) I don't know what TimLambert meant by the unreliability of Lott, but it's clear that Lott's paper doesn't (isn't trying to) invalidate Ayres and Levitt. As for your question above about the similarity about the McCrary / Fed Boston errors, it would help if you could be more precise. And please discuss here rather than revert. Rd232 talk 21:22, 19 March 2006 (UTC)

Fair Use Image[edit]

Is it proper to use the fair-use book cover image in the author's article? It shouldn't be!--69.208.166.69 05:22, 13 August 2006 (UTC) Why should one care if Levitt is Jewish/historically jewish? His bio is related to is research and none of his academic research addresses a 'jewish' concern.

Footnotes??[edit]

Someone erased the footnotes section!! Put it back. —Preceding unsigned comment added by TCO (talkcontribs) 15:56, 17 February 2008 (UTC)

The Impact of Legalized Abortion on Crime[edit]

I made a revision in the content of this section. The original article was confusing and misleading; for example, there was no way that an uninformed reader could know that the "two Fed economists" were Foote and Goetz themselves. Also, it contained some erroneous word choices, such as using "showed" instead of "argued". Finally, the original article contained a couple of sentences with broken grammar and some ambiguous, unspecific wordings ("regression was done"), which seem to be in part due to lack of knowledge. I changed it so that now the article uses more specific, correct terms. Hychu 18:01, 3 December 2008 (UTC)

Defamation suit[edit]

Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner, "Freakonomics" (Harper Collins, 2005) claimed about Lott:

"When other scholars have tried to replicate his results, they found that right-to-carry laws simply don't bring down crime."

Levitt & Dubner 2005 cite as an authority Ian Ayres and John Donohue, "Shooting Down the "More Guns Less Crime" Hypothesis," Stanford Law Review, Apr 2003.

In Ayres & Donohue 2003 p.129:

"Table 9, line 1 presents our replication of Lott’s 2SLS estimates for the 1977-1992 time period. ... we were gratified to see that we had basically succeeded in replicating Lott’s 2SLS results."

Then Ayres and Donohue go on to do what I would call "testing robustness" by tweaking the data and math to see what happens.

The comment of Ayres & Donohue on their Table 9 line 1 is consistent with "replication" in the peer referee sense described in Paragraph 12 of Lott's lawsuit, in Bruce McCullough "Numerical Accuracy of Econometric Software" JEL June 1999, and on the current policy page of the American Economic Review (AER) on sharing code and data. (Bruce McCullough is considered the expert on replication in the economic science, and AER requires that data and math must be made availble for both replication and testing before publication of an article in AER.)

On the Lojack controversy above mentioned: Lott has stated that he would have liked to have tested Ayres & Levitt's thesis but their Lojack data was withheld as proprietary. Lojack and concealed handguns both rely on the theory of a concealed deterrant affecting criminal behavior: proof that Lojack worked as a concealed deterrant would actual complement Lott's concealed carry theory. Under Levitt's editorship, the data on a JPE article on music sharing was also withheld as proprietary information of one of the music-sharing companies. AER would not have published those articles. Either the data would have been made available for replication and testing, or the articles would not have been published. If Lott published an article relying on proprietary data and withheld it, his critics would not let up. Albert Alschuler in an article otherwise critical of Lott wrote: "I am grateful to John Lott for calling my attention to the Ludwig study and for sharing it with me. Lott's willingness to share data, to explain his work, and to facilitate criticism of it provides a model of academic cooperation and graciousness." -- Valparaiso University Law Review Spring, 1997 Naaman Brown (talk) 18:22, 3 March 2009 (UTC)

Perhaps you could be more specific about what this means in terms of amending the Wikipedia article. Thanks. Rd232 talk 19:15, 3 March 2009 (UTC)
My one amendment to this entry was to cleanup a piece of vandalism by 61.8.114.3 "work in such films as crime police" should be "work in the field of crime". My discussion of the issues I limit to the Talk page: amendments to the article ought to be done by neutral parties without axes to grind on either abortion or gun control. Commentary might lead to a useful amendment to the Entry but such discussion should be left in Talk.
Levitt & Dubner Freakonomics 2005 implies other scholars try but cannot replicate Lott's results and cite Ayres & Donohue (2003) who state "we were gratified to see that we had basically succeeded in replicating Lott’s 2SLS results" on page 197. Other scholars have replicated Lott's results; when scholars test his results, most found that right-to-carry laws bring down crime to some degree while some found no statistically significant effect but a few (such as Ayres & Donohue) found an increase. The first judge in dismissing the defamation claim on the Freakonomics quote noted that Levitt's position that only abortion brought down the crime rate in the 1990s is disputed by other scholars just as Lott's thesis is disputed by other scholars. Foote & Goetz could not replicate the Levitt & Donohue abortion results from their data and math apparently because L&D changed their math in what seemed to be trivial ways that actually had a large impact on their results: that illustrates the importance of replication in the peer referee sense. One issue linking the abortion effect, the Lojack study and the defamation suit is replication. Naaman Brown (talk) 15:17, 4 March 2009 (UTC) signed myself (somehow was logged out when posted)

I don't really know how to edit wikipedia, but someone might want to update the status of the defamation lawsuit with this: http://www.ca7.uscourts.gov/fdocs/docs.fwx?submit=rss_sho&shofile=07-3095_022.pdf 68.24.102.108 (talk) 11:58, 20 January 2011 (UTC)

done. Naaman Brown (talk) 17:36, 21 January 2011 (UTC)

Abortion "material"[edit]

It seems that this "material" is spread over a bunch of different sections. Can this be "cleaned up" under one section, ect? TIA --Tom 14:04, 9 March 2009 (UTC)

♪ ♫ don't know much about......[edit]

The quote ""I just don't know very much about the field of economics. I'm not good at math, I don't know a lot of econometrics, and I also don't know how to do theory."" sourced to Stephen J. Dubner, "The Probability That a Real-Estate Agent Is Cheating You (and Other Riddles of Modern Life)", The New York Times, 3 Aug 2003, was removed 08:02 24 Dec 2010 by LyingLikeAMumRa with the comment (Removed incorrectly attributed quotation - )

Source for the quote is Levitt's co-author Dubner who says "he says".

Quote Dubner: "But if you were to ask Levitt his opinion of some standard economic matter, he would probably swipe the hair from his eyes and plead ignorance. "I gave up a long time ago pretending that I knew stuff I didn't know," he says. "I mean, I just -- I just don't know very much about the field of economics. I'm not good at math, I don't know a lot of econometrics, and I also don't know how to do theory. If you ask me about whether the stock market's going to go up or down, if you ask me whether the economy's going to grow or shrink, if you ask me whether deflation's good or bad, if you ask me about taxes -- I mean, it would be total fakery if I said I knew anything about any of those things." " http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9C01EFD61E3FF930A3575BC0A9659C8B63

Now, either Levitt's Freakonomics co-author Stephen Dubner is misrepresenting what "he says" or the quote is correctly attributed. Naaman Brown (talk) 18:00, 15 January 2011 (UTC)

How come his online CV still says he is co-editor of the Journal of Political Economy although the journal does not list him since December 2007?[edit]

Creation and modified date of the CV PDF is 7/20/2005. Open Levitt-CV.PDF in Acrobat Reader, select File, Document properties. --Naaman Brown (talk) 20:44, 26 April 2012 (UTC) Follow up: Levitt-CV (current, creation/modified date of PDF 9/30/2013) shows "Editor, Journal of Political Economy (August 1999-March 2009)". --Naaman Brown (talk) 13:57, 6 August 2014 (UTC)

Quote farm[edit]

I notice the quote sectiom was removed, citing WP:Quotefarm. However, one of the notable products of Levitt and Dubner "Freakonomics" has been the prolifieration of quotes attributed to Levitt. I'll park the text and cited sources in Talk for now. Question I have, does the widespread quoting of "Freakonomics" in one-liners or sound bites justify a quotes section in the Levitt article? -- Naaman Brown (talk) 14:14, 6 August 2014 (UTC)

  • "Regression analysis is more art than science." Steven Levitt with Stephen Dubner, Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything, William Morrow, 2005, p.163.
  • "An expert doesn't so much argue the various sides of an issue as plant his flag firmly on one side. That's because an expert whose argument reeks of restraint or nuance often doesn't get much attention. An expert must be bold if he hopes to alchemize his homespun theory into conventional wisdom." Levitt and Dubner, Freakonomics, p. 148.
  • "....if you own a gun and have a swimming pool in the yard, the swimming pool is almost 100 times more likely to kill a child than the gun is." Steve Levitt, "Pools more dangerous than guns", op-ed, Chicago Sun-Times, July 28, 2001.
  • "Of course, ocean acidification is an important issue. Now, there are ways to deal with ocean acidification, right, it's actually, that's actually, we know exactly how to un-acidifiy the oceans, is to pour a bunch of base into it, so, so if that turns out to be an incredibly big problem, then we can deal with that." interview about Super Freakonomics on Diane Rehm Show, WAMU, 26 Oct 2009, 11:00am.
  • "That's the nature of modern business—to be inundated with data. Your people don't have the time to analyze it, or the specialized training, but we do. There is nothing we love more than finding things in data that no one else can see." Direct quote by Steven Levitt, TGG Group company brochure, 2011.