The Economic Naturalist shows how simple economic principles help answer such diverse questions as these:

  • Why does a $500 tuxedo rent for $90 a day while a $20,000 car rents for only $40?
  • Why do female models earn so much more than male models?
  • Why might retailers deliberately hammer dents into their own appliances?
  • Why do the keypad buttons of drive-up cash machines have Braille dots?
  • Why are child safety seats required in cars but not in airplanes?
  • Why are whales, but not chickens, in danger of extinction?
  • Why is there a light in your refrigerator but not in your freezer?
  • Why do 24-hour convenience stores have locks on their doors?
  • Why are newspapers, but not soft drinks, sold in vending machines that allow customers to take more units than they paid for?
  • Why are brown eggs more expensive than white ones, even though the two types taste the same and have identical nutritional value?

Read the introductory chapter

Order it

Some Links

New York Times Book Review, "Thy Neighbor's Stash," (review of THE ECONOMIC NATURALIST and FALLING BEHIND by Daniel Gross)
NPR's Morning Edition, "Viewing Life Through an Economic Prism," (conversations in the field with Adam Davidson)
NPR's Talk of the Nation, "New Book Explores Economics of Human Behavior," (interview with Neal Conan)
Authors@Google: "Robert Frank on The Economic Naturalist," (July 23, 2007 lecture at Google headquarters in Mountain View, CA.)
International Herald Tribune, “Robert H. Frank’s Economic Guidebook Unlocks Everyday Design Enigmas,” (review and accompanying slide show by Alice Rawsthorne)
KQED Forum (NPR), “Economic Naturalist Robert Frank” (interview)
Marketplace Morning Report (NPR): “Econo-Reasoning Behind Everyday Things” (interview)
Radio Times: “Why Understanding a Little Economics Can Go a Long Way…” (WHYY NPR interview)
Freakonomics Blog: “Why Do Retirees Buy Such Big Houses and Other Riddles from The Economic Naturalist” (excerpt) (My response to reader comments)  “On the Trail of Economic Oddities” (interview) "Economics Education 101" (interview) "Why Do Brides Buy and Grooms Rent?" (article)
Cornell University:  “Bob Frank – Close Up” (video interview)
The New York Times: "Students Discover Economics in Its Natural State" (my column about the writing assignment) "Serve Fewer Courses to Nourish More" (review by Michael O'Hare)
Washington Post Bookworld: "The Whys Have It" (review by Steven Pearlstein) (My response to Pearlstein) “On the Squareness of Milk Containers” (review by Tom Vanderbilt)
More links

Praise for The Economic Naturalist

"Bookstores have been blitzed with several popular economics books in recent years. ...The Economic Naturalist is the best and most readable of the bunch." -- David Johnsen,

"Fascinating, mind-expanding, and lots of fun." -- Steven Pinker, author of The Blank Slate

"Frank believes that most people learn from stories rather than equations and graphs. He’s surely right. I’ve been regaling my 11-year old son with some of Frank’s little economic puzzles at bedtime and he can’t get enough of them." -- Lance Knobel,

"Smart, snappy and delightful. Bob Frank is one of America's best writers on economics." -- Tyler Cowen, author of In Praise of Commercial Culture and What Price Fame?

"With his usual wit and style, Robert Frank has written a book that explains why a host of puzzling phenomena in daily life make perfect (economic) sense. Fans of Freakonomics will be fans of Frank's book too." -- Thomas Gilovich, Co-author of Why Smart People Make Big Money Mistakes and How to Correct Them

"Fun and fascinating! At times it'll remind you of a Seinfeld routine -- 'Did you ever wonder why baseball managers wear uniforms but basketball coaches wear suits?' -- except that Bob Frank also gives you the real answers." -- Steven Strogatz, author of SYNC

"Frank's new book shows that, when you ask students to look around, they see interesting things; and, sure enough, basic economic concepts can usually give a plausible account of actions and outcomes. This is an excellent way for students to learn economics. To tell the truth, it is also a useful correction to the rest of us." -- Robert Solow, Nobel Laureate in Economics

"As amusing to read as one of Jay Leno's joke books, but Bob Frank's questions and answers are not jokes. They represent pithy observations about our economic lives that will give readers an appreciation of the real substance of economic reasoning." -- Robert J. Shiller, author of The New Financial Order and Irrational Exuberance

"The book is a real eye-opener, not only with regard to the mysteries of economic decision-making, but also because of the connection with the evolution of the human primate." -- Frans de Waal, author of Our Inner Ape and Chimpanzee Politics.