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Back to Guns and Pools

The question, posed a couple of posts below, is which kills more children every year: guns or swimming pools?

The answer, as you said, is swimming pools — sort of counterintuitive, but you all figured it out. According to Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner in their book Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything, a child is 100 times more likely to die in a swimming pool accident than from a gun-related accident. According to their data, one child under 10 drowns each year for every 11,000 residential pools. In comparison, one child under 10 each year is killed by a gun for every one million guns.

Their point is that there’s a hidden side to many things that we don’t think about. If we don’t let our kids go to a friend’s house where we know his parents keep a gun, we feel pretty good about our parenting. But we don’t think so much about letting our kids go to a friend’s house with a swimming pool when in reality, they’re much more likely to come to harm because of the swimming pool than because of the gun.

It’s a fascinating book that explores questions such as why drug dealers live with their moms, how sumo wrestlers and schoolteachers cheat, how baby-naming patterns affect (or don’t affect) children and a controversial theory about how legalized abortion led to a drop in violent crime two decades later.

The authors have a blog on the subject of the hidden side of everything on the New York Times website. Levitt is an economist with a unique way of applying his science to the world and Levitt is a writer who puts the ideas on paper. Good stuff.

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