An independent day school serving grades K-12 | St. Paul, MN

SPA welcomes alumnus, economist, and "Freakonomics" author Dr. Steven Levitt '85 back to campus

On November 5, SPA welcomed alumnus, economist, and author Dr. Steven Levitt '85 back to campus for a special Upper School assembly focused on data science and the ways in which "big data" increasingly shapes our culture, experiences, and worldview.

Levitt, who is a Professor of Economics at the University of Chicago and the co-author of the bestselling Freakonomics series of books, spoke to Upper School students and faculty about the rapidly expanding role of data science as a driving force in contemporary economics, media, and social change. Levitt outlined the development of his own engagement with data science and also reminisced about his time as a student at SPA, including his memories of playing on the basketball team and winning the Quiz Bowl championship. Read The Rubicon's recap of Levitt's talk.

Levitt, who is one of the world's foremost experts on economics, is the William B. Ogden Distinguished Service Professor of Economics at the University of Chicago, where he directs the Becker Center on Chicago Price Theory. He is the 2003 John Bates Clark Medal winner, an award that recognizes the most outstanding economist in America under the age of 40. In 2006, he was named one of Time magazine’s 100 People Who Shape Our World. He co-authored Freakonomics with journalist Stephen Dubner in 2005; the book and its sequel, SuperFreakonomics, are worldwide bestsellers and together have sold more than 7 million copies.

After graduating from SPA in 1985, Levitt received his B.A. from Harvard University in 1989, his Ph.D. from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1994, and has taught at Chicago since 1997. In addition to his academic and Freakonomics pursuits, he is a founding partner of TGG Group consulting firm, a company formed by a handful of the world's leading economists, psychologists, and behavioral scientists to help companies "unpack the knowledge hidden in big data by separating causation from correlation...[allowing] clients to use that knowledge to increase productivity, reduce costs and drive growth."

Photo by Sophie Cullen '22