The Undercover Economist: Exposing Why the Rich are Rich, the Poor are Poor—and Why You Can Never Buy a Decent Used Car Summary

The SQUEEZE: Every day is filled with human interaction. This is life on a general scale. However, within a specific context, human interaction consists of negotiations between the rich and the poor, between companies and employees, and between business markets. It is this sentiment that Tim Harford expresses in “The Undercover Economist: Exposing Why the Rich are Rich, the Poor are Poor—and Why You Can Never Buy a Decent Used Car.” He discusses the concept of economic principles and how they lurk behind everyday human interaction. Economic principles explain traffic jams, coffee prices, and the rising cost of health insurance. Harford believes that supermarkets, airlines, and coffee chains are continuously designing ways to separate people from their money. Harford’s book is a prime example of how life operates on an economic level. It is a must read for economists studying market power, efficiency, market failure, and game theory.


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Notable Endorsement: "The Undercover Economist is a book you must pick up if you want a fresh perspective on how basic ideas in economics can help in answering the most complex and perplexing questions about the world around us."—Business Today

Common Q’s Answered by this Book:

  • What are some of the ways that large industries appeal to poor consumers?
  • What are some economic principles that underlie interactions between business markets?
  • How does everyday life operate on an economic level?
  • How does the rising cost of health insurance affect the economy nationally and globally?
  • Why is it increasingly becoming difficult to buy a decent used car?


About the Author: Tim Harford is a best-selling author of two books. Harford serves on the editorial board of the Financial Times. Harford also writes the “Dear Economist” column and is a regular contributor to Slate, NPR’s Marketplace, and Forbes. Harford has been an economist for the World Bank. Harford also served as an economics tutor for Oxford University. For more information about the book and Harford’s current proejcts, visit:


Book Vitals:

Publisher: Random House Trade Paperbacks (January 2007)

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