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When to Rob a Bank summary

Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner

...and 131 more warped suggestions and well-intended rants.

4.1 (76 ratings)
19 mins
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    When to Rob a Bank
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    There’s more to a name than you think.

    Every year millions of new parents fret over what to name their bundle of joy. But, personal preference aside, names aren’t all that important, right? Well, in the world of names, there are some strange statistics that indicate quite the opposite.

    For one, you should steer clear of people whose middle name is Wayne. How do we know this? One freakonomics reader, M. R. Stewart, has an unusual hobby. She collects newspaper clippings about crime. This is not too wacky in itself, but all the clippings feature perpetrators who have one thing in common: their middle name is Wayne.

    Author Stephen Dubner was shocked by the sheer number of clippings and strongly doubted whether anyone could assemble a list that long for any other middle name. As a result, he has now forbidden his daughters, even though they are currently only six years old, to date a boy with the middle name Wayne.

    Another strange thing about names is how they catch on. Even the unlikeliest of names can spread like wildfire.

    In 1999, there were eight children in the United States named Nevaeh. In 2005, this number rocketed to  4,457. What happened? The sudden name-craze originated in a single event: A 2000 MTV appearance by Christian rockstar Sonny Sandoval, of P.O.D, and his baby girl, Nevaeh, which is “Heaven” spelled backward. For baby girls, the name Nevaeh is now more popular than Sara.

    But the peculiarities don’t stop there; some names are uncannily fitting. Since the beginning of freakonomics.com, readers have shared some oddly apt names, like one Idaho man who was arrested for public masturbation after being spotted by a police officer in a public restroom. His surname? Limberhand.

    Another reader, who had recently moved away from San Francisco, related how sad he was to leave behind his dentist – Dr. Les Plack.

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    What is When to Rob a Bank about?

    When To Rob a Bank (2015) presents a collection of articles published on the Freakonomics blog at freakonomics.com, which has now been going strong for ten years. Honing in on the unpredictable and downright strange, Levitt and Dubner cover everything from why you should avoid anyone whose middle name is Wayne to why some of us should be having more sex than others.

    Best quote from When to Rob a Bank

    When it comes to evaluating risks, people stink for all sorts of reasons – from cognitive bias to the medias emphasis on rare events.

    —Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner
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    Who should read When to Rob a Bank?

    • Economics students
    • Anyone interested in human behavior
    • Freakonomics fans

    About the Author

    Steven D. Levitt is Professor of Economics at the University of Chicago. In 2004, he received the John Bates Clark medal for the most influential American economist under forty and, in 2006, was featured as one of Time magazine’s “100 People Who Shape Our World.”

    During the 1990s, journalist Stephen J. Dubner worked for The New York Times Magazine. He is now an award-winning author, best known for the co-writing he has done with Steven D. Levitt.

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