Stories | October 6, 2011

Coming soon to a book club near you?

Can behavioural economics theories help us improve our marriage or parenting – and show us how to be more successful at work?

eZonomics picks five recently released popular economics books that argue economics can.

The five titles (and others like them) follow the release of hugely successful popular economics titles, such Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner’s Freakonomics and Malcolm Gladwell’s The Tipping Point, both published in 2005.

Economics tackles… intuition
Daniel Kahneman, a recipient of the Nobel Prize in economics for his work in psychology and decision making, will release Thinking, Fast and Slow this year. In the book, Kahneman explains his theory of two systems that drive the way we think. One is fast, intuitive and emotional. The other is slower, more deliberative and more logical. Fast thinking has extraordinary capabilities, he argues, but also faults and behavioural biases that he details in depth to suggest when we can trust our intuition – and when we can’t.

Economics tackles… attractiveness
Erotic capital is an overlooked human asset, argues London School of Economics senior research fellow Catherine Hakim in her controversial book Honey Money: The Power Of Erotic Capital, released in August. Hakim argues the power of being attractive develops from an early age, “with attractive children assumed to be intelligent, competent and good”. Later in life, it can be exploited in the workplace – and other areas of life. Reviews include Lucy Kellaway’s in the Financial Times, which says “the author is at her best when explaining why her thesis is hated by men, who find it threatening, and by feminists (given a savaging throughout)”.

Economics tackles…fairness
Does it pay to be beautiful? Economist Daniel Hamermesh writes in Beauty Pays, published in August, that the attractive are more likely to be employed, receive more substantial pay and even negotiate loans with better terms. He asks in a newspaper opinion piece if “the ugly” should get legal protection. But a reader’s response also published by The New York Times asks who would qualify as “ugly” – and says it’s a slippery slope towards legislating away difference of height, weight or intelligence.

Economics tackles…marriage
How do the economic theories of trade offs, division of labour and supply and demand work in relationships? The book Spousonomics by Paula Szuchman and Jenny Anderson offers a chapter-by-chapter guide and goes as far as to claim “economics is the key to a happy marriage”.

Economics tackles … parenting
Finally, “economist dad” and professor Joshua Gans writes about economic theories and parenting in Parentonomics. The use of incentives is, perhaps not-surprisingly, covered, as is “outsourcing” (the toilet training option Gans chose when sending third child to day care).

Do you have a favourite behavioural economics book? Contact us to share it.

eZonomics team
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