A weblog by Will Fitzgerald

Freakonomics error?

I’m pretty sure that this Freakonomics article is in error. Previously, Steven Levitt estimated that the odds are about 10,000 to 1 against being arrested for soliciting in Chicago. But here he marvels at an unlucky patron who was arrested twice in the span of about a week. It was Marilyn vos Savant who pointed out that, although flipping a coin ten times and getting ten heads was as likely as any other permutation, if you did see ten heads in a row, you should be suspicous of the coin. Similarly, I suspect what happened here is that the odds are stacked against those whom the Chicago police target for solicitation: if you look at the pictures, they seem prima facie to more likely be people of color or less well-to-do than average; I suspect the real bad luck in this case was to be born black, poor and female (or transgendered).


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