Since it was first published two years ago, "Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything" has been the buzz at many a dinner party, inviting people to think in new ways and with new ideas.
Among the provocative questions economist Steven D. Levitt and author and journalist Stephen J. Dubner ask tonight on "20/20" is, "How is a black, straight-A student like a Hollywood celebrity?"
"The answer is they both are lonely for very different reasons," Dubner said in an interview on "Good Morning America" with Diane Sawyer. "You did an interview with Jennifer Aniston where she talked about how lonely it can be to be a celebrity. Johnny Carson, Lisa Marie Presley, all lonely. So many people want from you, and it's hard to trust."
The authors also look at the relationship of popularity and loneliness. Who has more friends?
For "20/20," Harvard economist Roland Fryer studied sets of people and found that black students, as they achieved more academic success, reported that they had fewer friends. The number of friends white students say they have as they achieve more in school increases.
It's part of a disparaging attitude about "acting white," Dubner said.
"This 'acting white' phenomena is really a tragedy," Dubner said. "[Illinois U.S. Sen.] Barack Obama said, 'We need to eradicate the slander that says a black youth with a book is 'acting white.'"
Why Crack Dealers Live With Their Mothers
Another provocative question the team asks on "20/20," is "How are beauty pageant winners like crack dealers?"
"The answer to that is they're both engaging in what's really a tournament," Dubner said. "You could call it the tournament of life. Where many professions have a post at the top that looks great, a lot of money, and power, but the route to get there is very difficult. Most people will not get anywhere near there, so they drop away."
A successful crack dealer at the top of his game may make a lot of money, but the ones below make minimum wage, Dubner said. Similarly, a beauty queen does all right, but the ones at the top do very well.
That's why so many crack dealers still live with their mothers, Dubner said.
Robin Harmon knows all about the tournament life. She once dealt crack on the streets of Hagerstown, Md., and she was also once Miss Maryland.
After the glory of her beauty pageant win wore off, Harmon turned to crack. She was caught selling it and served 11 months in jail. She now lives in a halfway house. She knows only a few leaders of the crack game who make money.
"A lot of times we look at life and just see the tip of the iceberg and assume that's the whole thing and it's not," Dubner said. "I don't mean to discourage people from entering tournament situations -- journalism is one, politics, sports -- but it pays to be realistic and not have unrealistic expectations because those can obviously be dashed."