Abortion and crime: who should you believe?

Two very vocal critics, Steve Sailer and John Lott, have been exerting a lot of energy lately trying to convince the world that the abortion reduces crime hypothesis is not correct. A number of readers have asked me to respond to these criticisms. First, let’s start by reviewing the basic facts that support the Donohue-Levitt hypothesis that legalized abortion in the 1970s explains a substantial part of the crime decline in the 1990s:

1) Five states legalized abortion three years before Roe v. Wade. Crime started falling three years earlier in these states, with property crime (done by younger people) falling before violent crime.

2) After abortion was legalized, the availability of abortions differed dramatically across states. In some states like North Dakota and in parts of the deep South, it was virtually impossible to get an abortion even after Roe v. Wade. If one compares states that had high abortion rates in the mid 1970s to states that had low abortion rates in the mid 1970s, you see the following patterns with crime. For the period from 1973-1988, the two sets of states (high abortion states and low abortion states) have nearly identical crime patterns. Note, that this is a period before the generations exposed to legalized abortion are old enough to do much crime. So this is exactly what the Donohue-Levitt theory predicts. But from the period 1985-1997, when the post Roe cohort is reaching peak crime ages, the high abortion states see a decline in crime of 30% relative to the low abortion states. Our original data ended in 1997. If one updated the study, the results would be similar.)

3) All of the decline in crime from 1985-1997 experienced by high abortion states relative to low abortion states is concentrated among the age groups born after Roe v. Wade. For people born before abortion legalization, there is no difference in the crime patterns for high abortion and low abortion states, just as the Donohue-Levitt theory predicts.

4) When we compare arrest rates of people born in the same state, just before and just after abortion legalization, we once again see the identical pattern of lower arrest rates for those born after legalization than before.

5) The evidence from Canada, Australia, and Romania also support the hypothesis that abortion reduces crime.

6) Studies have shown a reduction in infanticide, teen age drug use, and teen age childbearing consistent with the theory that abortion will reduce other social ills similar to crime.

These six points all support the hypothesis. There is one fact that, without more careful analysis, argues against the Donohue-Levitt story:

7) The homicide rate of young males (especially young Black males) temporarily skyrocketed in the late 1980s, especially in urban centers like Los Angeles, New York City, and Washington, DC, before returning to regular levels soon thereafter. These young males who were hitting their peak crime years were born right around the time abortion was legalized.

If you look at the serious criticisms that have been leveled against the Donohue-Levitt hypothesis, virtually all of them revolve around this spike in homicide by young men in the late 1980s-early 1990s. (There are also some non-serious criticisms, which I will address below.) This is the point that Sailer is making, and also the point made far more rigorously by Ted Joyce in an article published in the Journal of Human Resources.

So, a reasonable thing to ask yourself is: Was there anything else going on in the late 1980s that might be causing young Black males to be killing each other at alarming rates that might be swamping the impact of legalized abortion over a short time period? The obvious culprit you might think about is crack cocaine. Crack cocaine was hitting the inner cities at exactly this time, disproportionately affecting minorities, and the violence was heavily concentrated among young Black males such as the gang members we write about in Freakonomics. So to figure out whether this spike in young Black male homicides is evidence against legalized abortion reducing crime, or even evidence legalized abortion causes crime, one needs to control for the crack epidemic to find the answer. This is the argument that I have been making for years. First in the Slate exchange with Steve Sailer back in 1999, then in the Donohue and Levitt response to Ted Joyce, and now in a recent paper by Roland Fryer, Paul Heaton, me, and Kevin Murphy.

The key points I mentioned in Slate five years ago in debating Sailer are reprinted below:

Your hypothesis that crack, not abortion, is the story, provides a testable alternative to our explanation of the facts. You argue:

The arrival of crack led to large increases in crime rates between 1985 and the early ’90s, particularly for inner-city African-American youths. The fall of the crack epidemic left many of the bad apples of this cohort dead, imprisoned, or scared straight. Consequently, not only did crime fall back to its original pre-crack level, but actually dropped even further in a “overshoot” effect.
States that had high abortion rates in the ’70s were hit harder by the crack epidemic, thus any link between falling crime in the ’90s and abortion rates in the ’70s is spurious.

If either assumption 1 or 2 is true, then the crack epidemic can explain some of the rise and fall in crime in the ’80s and ’90s. In order for your crack hypothesis to undermine the “abortion reduces crime” theory, however, all three assumptions must hold true.

So, let’s look at the assumptions one by one and see how they fare.

1)Did the arrival of crack lead to rising youth crime? Yes. No argument from me here.

2) Did the decline in crack lead to a “boomerang” effect in which crime actually fell by more than it had risen with the arrival of crack? Unfortunately for your story, the empirical evidence overwhelmingly rejects this claim. Using specifications similar to those in our paper, we find that the states with the biggest increases in murder over the rising crack years (1985-91) did see murder rates fall faster between 1991 and 1997. But for every 10 percent that murder rose between 1985 and 1991, it fell by only 2.6 percent between 1991 and 1997. For your story to explain the decline in crime that we attribute to legalized abortion, this estimate would have to be about five times bigger. Moreover, for violent crime and property crime, increases in these crimes over the period 1985-91 are actually associated with increases in the period 1991-97 as well. In other words, for crimes other than murder, the impact of crack is not even in the right direction for your story.

3) Were high-abortion-rate states in the ’70s hit harder by the crack epidemic in the ’90s? Given the preceding paragraph, this is a moot point, because all three assumptions must be true to undermine the abortion story, but let’s look anyway. A reasonable proxy for how hard the crack epidemic hit a state is the rise in crime in that state over the period 1985-91. Your theory requires a large positive correlation between abortion rates in a state in the ’70s and the rise in crime in that state between 1985 and 1991. In fact the actual correlations, depending on the crime category, range between -.32 and +.09 Thus, the claim that high-abortion states are the same states that were hit hardest by crack is not true empirically. While some states with high abortion rates did have a lot of crack (e.g., New York and D.C.), Vermont, Kansas, Hawaii, Massachusetts, and Washington were among the 10 states with the highest abortion rates in the ’70s. These were not exactly the epicenters of the crack epidemic.

So, what is the final tally? Two of the key assumptions underlying your alternative hypothesis appear to be false: The retreat of crack has not led to an “overshoot” in crime, causing it to be lower than 1985, and even if it had, the states with high abortion rates in the ’70s do not appear to be affected particularly strongly by the crack epidemic. Moreover, when we re-run our analysis controlling for both changes in crime rates from 1985 to 1991 and the level of crime in 1991, the abortion variable comes in just as strongly as in our original analysis.

Re-reading this response five years later, it still sounds pretty good to me. Interestingly, at the time, Sailer refused to respond directly to my arguments. His response in Slate completely side-stepped the fact that I had destroyed his core argument. He wrote, for instance, “…rather than mud wrestle in numbers here, I’ll privately send you my technical suggestions. In this essay I’ll step back and explain why this straightforward insight [that abortion reduces crime] might not work in practice.” I should note that I am still waiting for those technical suggestions he promised to arrive!! And if you compare his Slate arguments to his “new” article in the American Conservative, you will see that his thinking has not progressed very far on the issue. In contrast, I spent two years working on that paper on crack cocaine, which provides hard, quantitative evidence in favor of those earlier conjectures I had made.

Now let’s talk about John Lott for a minute. Along with John Whitley, he wrote a paper on abortion and crime. It is so loaded with inaccurate claims, errors and statistical mistakes that I hate to even provide a link to it, but for the sake of completeness you can find it here. Virtually nothing in this paper is correct, and it is no coincidence that four years later it remains unpublished. In a letter to the editor at Wall Street Journal, Lott claims that our results are driven by the particular measure of abortions that we used in the first paper. I guess he never bothered to read our response to Joyce in which we show in Table 1 that the results are nearly identical when we use his preferred data source. It is understandable that he could make this argument five years ago, but why would he persist in making it in 2005 when it has been definitively shown to be false? (I’ll let you put on your Freakonomics-thinking-hat and figure out the answer to that last question.) As Lott and Whitley are by now well aware, the statistical results they get in that paper are an artifact of some bizarre choices they made and any reasonable treatment of the data returns our initial results. (Even Ted Joyce, our critic, acknowledges that the basic patterns in the data we report are there, which Lott and Whitley were trying to challenge.)

To anyone who actually made it this far, I applaud you for your patience. Let me simply end with an analogy. Let’s say that we are living in a world in which global warming is taking place, but also a world in which El Nino occasionally leads to radical, short run disruptions in normal weather patterns. You wouldn’t argue that global warming is false because for a year or two we had cold winters. You’d want to figure out what effect El Nino has on winter weather and then see whether controlling for El Nino it looks like global warming is taking place. The impact of legalized abortion on crime is a lot like global warming — it is slow and steady and grows a little year by year. Crack is like El Nino, it comes in with a fury and then largely disappears. That is why I have invested so much time and effort in understanding both abortion and crack, and why the criticisms made against the abortion-reduces-crime hypothesis to date have not been very compelling.

Leave A Comment

Comments are moderated and generally will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive.

 

COMMENTS: 182


  1. Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see.

    Disliked! Like or Dislike: Thumb up 13 Thumb down 20
  2. Steve Sailer says:

    Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see.

    Disliked! Like or Dislike: Thumb up 26 Thumb down 31
    • ELi says:

      Yes, but my understanding was that the argument was based on the data from each state, where decreases in crime trailed the legalization of abortion. That is, the data tell us which of the competing (and perhaps equally appealing) theories is accurate. I admit, I’m not familiar with the data beyond what Levitt presents. Are the data false or misleading?

      Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0
  3. George B says:

    Levitt’s thesis is not an argument about the ethics of abortion. In fact, he may not have even framed his thesis in the most effective way. If he had a way to measure the number or rate of undesired pregnancies that were carried to term with the unwanted child kept by the birth mother he might have a better way to frame the problem to those that don’t believe in abortion. Levitt’s analyzes an unintended consequence of Roe v. Wade – a likely reduction of the crime rate. However, because his analysis concludes that unwanted children are much more likely to become criminals than wanted children, there are other solutions than abortion to help reduce crime.

    Those that believe abortion is wrong would benefit their cause by supporting alternatives to abortion to reduce the number of unwanted children. Churches that oppose birth control aren’t helping the cause of reducing the number of abortions, for example. Conservatives that oppose sex education and providing birth control to minors are likely to increase the abortion rate and/or the crime rate. Liberals who support generous welfare programs are likely to have the unintended consequence of increasing the crime rate by encouraging mothers to keep children that are unwanted other than for the payments.

    I suspect one factor contributing to the high rate of crime in the African American community is that black babies are more likely to end up in foster care than babies of other backgrounds. There is a huge demand for adopting white babies so no unwanted white child need be kept by the birth parents. If the adoption demand for black babies could be increased, it is reasonable to conclude that crime could be reduced.

    If conservatives want to decrease the abortion rate they could press to change laws that prevent mothers from benefiting financially from giving up babies. While we may view baby selling as unethical, it is rational to conclude that allowing baby selling would reduce the abortion rate.

    My primary point is that there are often unintended consequences to laws that we don’t recognize. When someone like Levitt identifies an unintended consequence he is providing information that helps us make informed decisions. Much of the discussion here seems to be missing that point.

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 39 Thumb down 3
  4. I have found Contested Lives: The Abortion Debate in an American Community — by Faye D. Ginsburg to be very thought provoking.

    Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0
  5. Anonymous says:

    If a high birthrate among long income, single women is correlated with a high crime when these children grow up, then perhaps the baby boom after WWII can explain the high crime rate during the late 1960′s.

    Thumb up 2 Thumb down 2
    • Evelyn J Herron says:

      The baby boom after WWII was caused by returning GIs getting married soon after they left the service; the couple would have children soon thereafter. The GIs had lots of benefits. They could go to school on the GI bill. Many did so with a wife and children in tow because their monthly stipend paid for many of the expenses. Also, the wife would work, earning a PHT (Putting Hubby Through) degree.

      When they got married, they could buy a house on the GI Bill for no money down. Whole subdivisions of little houses were built to sell to GIs and their families.

      In the late 1940s when the baby boom began, it was a disgrace to have a baby out of wedlock. Typically, the guy would marry the pregnant girlfriend, especially if he was a GI and had the benefits described above. If the couple did not marry, the girl would go away somewhere, have the baby, and give it up for adoption. Therefore, the children were, for the most part, brought up in a conventional family–either birth or adoptive–and did not suffer the stigma of having an unwed mother who had to work 2 or 3 jobs to support her family, as we have today.

      So, no I don’t think the WWII baby boom can explain the “high crime” rate of the 1960s. However, the large numbers of babies born from 1946 to 1962 put a strain on the community infrastructure that served those children. Schools were suddenly overcrowded, and new ones had to be built rapidly. New teachers had to be trained in larger numbers to staff the increasing number of classrooms. In some states (California), schools ran two shifts–morning and afternoon–to accommodate the large number of children that came in waves each year, because the districts could not keep with the demand for more space. I don’t know how this affected the education that those children received.

      Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 14 Thumb down 2
  6. Anonymous says:

    Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see.

    Disliked! Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 38
    • Sarah says:

      They didn’t say all actions of a parent are irrelevant in determining the success of the child. Things like love and kindness do influence the child (more than education, for example), and unwanted children are less likely to receive either love or kindness.

      Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 2
      • Bjorn says:

        Good thinking. And it is not necessarily the specific things they do for their children, but the fact that they care. Playing Bach for a fetus is probably nonsense, but someone who goes to that kind of length to give their child a leg up is probably also doing many other things to better their children’s chances, including some that work.

        Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 2
    • ELi says:

      Or MIT and Harvard. One of the two.

      Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  7. Anonymous says:

    Do you have actual data and the numbers to back up your statements, or are you just spouting “conventional wisdom”? It’s clear you didn’t read the book and therefore have nothing useful to contribute other han to troll.

    Thumb up 6 Thumb down 9
  8. Norm Al says:

    OK, too many and too long. Let’s tighten up, people.

    Bottom line: could be abortion reduces crime, but also could be an example of correlation without causation.

    For example, it may be the legalization of abortion accompanied a cultural shift in those states toward a less stringent view of crime.

    Thumb up 4 Thumb down 7
    • Bjorn says:

      That could have been an explanation, if it was not for the fact that the very opposite was true.

      Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 3
  9. Anonymous says:

    A proper sexual education to kids at school, may reduce abortion. And also help to reduce crime….

    Thumb up 3 Thumb down 3
  10. Anonymous says:

    Leslie’s argument would make more sense if she were arguing in favor of forced sterilization of unfit parents than her apparent argument in favor of abortion. Abortion has been “legalized” for decades, and thus her examples of doomed children obviously were not prevented by the “legalization” of abortion. I’m neither for nor against “legalized” abortion, but I am very much against the judiciary’s decades’ long practice of substituting elitist views of good social policy for that of the democratically elected legislative bodies of this country.

    Thumb up 1 Thumb down 2
  11. bdhutch says:

    A couple of things to consider on why those aborted fetuses might have turned out to be criminals (which I think is not a strong part of Levitt’s argument)

    The book argues that “unwanted” children are more subject to abuse and neglect. It also points to the mother’s education level, poverty level, etc. In addition, the chapter on parenting says that unwanted children are treated worse than wanted children. But how do we know who the “unwanted” children are? If they are aborted, they don’t exist and if they aren’t there’s no real way to know if they are “unwanted.” While I’m not trying to make a feminist argument, it seems that the onus on these children who would have been born becoming criminals rests with the mothers.

    But what about the fathers? The book does mention that growing up in a fatherless home contributes, but what about the 50% of genes the child shares with the father. It’s a guess, but I would assume most women who get abortions are not in a stable realtionship with the father and that most (not all) of those fathers are not interested in raising the child or even in the woman’s decision as to whether or not to have the abortion. So the question becomes is the type of man who would impregnate a young woman (often teen), and who would have no interest in raising the child more likely to be a criminal? I’m guessing yes (but just guessing). And given that genetics must play some role in what kinds of adults children become (see Steven Pinker’s The Blank Slate and the Freakonomics chapter that parenting strategies have little influence on raising children) it makes sense that these children would have been more likely to become criminals in good part because of the nature of their fathers.

    Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0
  12. Stephen_Hunt says:

    Dr. Levitt,
    I am wondering whether you have had time to examine the effect of the pill on declining crime rates? While it was introduced in the early 1960s, it was not widely accessible until the late 1960s and early 1970s. Some backgrounding I have done would suggest that it too had a substantial (if smaller) impact on birth rates, and even has had the net effect of decreasing the number of abortions in many geographic areas where it has found widespread use. I would be interested to hear your results if you have examined it, or if not, perhaps I should crunchthe numbers?
    I’ve just come across your book & your paper written with professor Donohue here at Stanford, and found it intriguing as I have had a similar interst in regards to the effect of the pill, other OCs (and numerous other pharms) on crime. Congrats on the book!
    Regards,
    Stephen Hunt
    PS, this is my very first time blogging…

    Thumb up 3 Thumb down 1
  13. garry culhane says:

    If all the children which could be born in the next 10 years were instead aborted, would that be a good way to bring down the crime rate 20 years from now? Before there was “Roe v Wade” (which now sounds like some kind of pill) apparently abortion was much less widespread. So l guess “abortion” since then (but not before?) is something that became easy to measure. All the people who wanted that went to hospitals or clinics, so the event was reported in some way. Was that not done before this huge legal event? Was it the case that after the Roe thing people pretty well all moved over to doing a measurable event type abortion rather than rely on other things?

    Suppose a pill now comes out that could be taken by men or women that will cancel any possibility of pregnancy for the next year, and it is really safe, and it is super cheap, Will all people go to that instead of all other known methods? So now there will be no abortions at all. Will the crime rate start to go back up?

    When you think of it, does the rate of various crimes have anything to do with whether a child born 15 or 20 years ago was “wanted” or not. Are children born to families by accident or design yet when the birth comes thay are not really wanted? Does that figure into the stats? If abortion is a sort of convenient way to do late pregnancy control, how does that figure into the numbers of people who used to avoid sex in order to not be faced with that choice.

    When you check into what “crimes” go onto the police blotter, all kinds of odd variations are encountered, and it turns out that homicide is one of the few things you can be pretty sure of because all sorts of records and people get involved in reporting that.
    Just think of the reporting of sexual crimes, then and now.

    Of course we have all learned a little bit about this correlation business in the past period of intense statistical argument and regressions which computer programs produce so easily.
    But I have to wonder. I certainly do not know remotely enough to contend with the good Professor to whom we are indebted for his insights.

    But I just don’t like what he is saying even if the numbers are right.
    Can I claim some rational basis in a sort of ethical nose, like they say you can smell the bad and dangerous stuff from the pulp mill down to parts per billion? I don’t know that either. But in 71 years I have learned to beware of arguments that suit the elite. You see, they smell bad.

    Thumb up 3 Thumb down 2
  14. Anonymous says:

    Is this a really tricky concept:

    Whether or not you think abortion should be legal has nothing to do with whether or not legalizing abortion produced lower crime rates.

    And then from there to:

    Whether or not legalizing abortion produced lower crime rates might have something to do with whether or not you think abortion should be legal, but not necessarily.

    Is it really hard to keep these issues distinct? I guess it comes down to fear of what other people will think.

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  15. Anonymous says:

    this thread is SO hijacked.

    Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0
  16. Anonymous says:

    If the decrease in the crime rate in the 90′s is really due to the increased availability of abortions in the 70′s following Roe vs Wade, then those who are opposed to abortion should support greater efforts at providing sex education and increased availability of different forms of contraception to young women in order to prevent unwanted pregnancies from taking place that force these women to seek abortions.

    Thumb up 2 Thumb down 2
  17. Natasha says:

    deadman – Well, we can look at one issue in crime by the complexion of its commiters. About 90% Male around 50-55% black. This could give us a clue as who would be best aborted….Allow easier and incentive for women considering abortions for males, [...] Males could be allowed to be aborted later term and state could give the “young lady in trouble” a 40$ travel voucher for males. Black Males would be even more encouraged. In fact tuition for the first semester in the institution of choise paid by the state if you abort your black male fetus.

    IT’s late I am being obscene and Stupid forgive me.

    Why should you be forgiven for being smugly ignorant and truly obscene?

    How’s this: Self-reported rates of criminal offense as recorded by the National Youth Survey at the end of the 90s discovered that among young males, 42% admitted to criminal behavior. Overall, four white youths admitted to a crime for every five black youths. Even that small disparity is reduced when the groups are compared by income levels.

    The real difference isn’t in the commission of crimes, but in arrest rates. Only one white youth was arrested over that survey period for every four black youths arrested. For drug offenses, it’s even worse. Blacks make up around 12-13% of the US population, and around 13% of the drug using population, but they make up 62% incarcerated drug offenders.

    Don’t point up some ridiculous strawman argument based on the systemic bigotry of the justice system and then ‘cleverly’ try to cop to just having taken a stupid flight of fancy.

    Steve Sailer – “Still, there’s a more interesting question: Why did the places with the highest abortion rates in the ’70s (e.g., NYC and Washington D.C.) tend to suffer the worst crack-driven youth crime waves in the early ’90s?”

    In case you didn’t read anything up above about the crime decreases being also seen in states that really weren’t hit by the crack epidemic at all, these so-called crime rates (barring cases where an actual dead body shows up) were just as biased as I noted in response to the previous commentor.

    Even though, as with all other drugs, whites used crack far more than blacks ever did, blacks were far more likely to be arrested or jailed for it. Further, mandatory minimums and likelihood of prosecution go up for inexpensive crack cocaine, whereas powder cocaine which is a preferred drug of many wealthy white individuals isn’t prosecuted for as frequently and has more lenient sentencing guidelines.

    Even today, whites buy, sell and use more drugs than blacks, which is hardly surprising. But blacks commit more crimes, which is to say that the police and legal system are much more likely to assume their guilt and send them to jail instead of rehab. A black youth has very little chance of getting a friendly warning from a police officer who knows the family and thinks they’re a ‘good kid’ who’ll straighten out in a couple years.

    So can it be coincidence that the two cities you mention have large minority populations and racist law enforcement, two preconditions guaranteed to increase reported rates of crime? I doubt it.

    And yes, you are rather unappealing, you racist pervert. It isn’t because you’re a persecuted truthsayer, it’s because you’re deeply revolting.

    occidental tourist – If we were to take these abortion arguments in the context of those over global warming, in line with this analogy, this would buttress the case of those who suggest that it we havenâ$t a clue of all the variables involved and that trying to tease a clear result in favor of a predominate influence for one variable is almost inevitably the result of subconsciously favoring that argument …

    Well, clearly *you* don’t have a clue about all the variables involved in global warming, but to echo a commentor up-thread, there are people who do. Try reading … well, just about any scientific opinion written by a qualified climatologist not employed by people who profit from fossil fuels. The only disagreement they have at this point is how bad the warming will be and how fast it will occur. Some say it could happen slowly, others very fast. Even the Pentagon is writing up threat assessments based on different projected levels of warming.

    A major piece of the global warming puzzle fell into place recently when it became clear that the oceans have been absorbing much of the carbon dioxide that was ‘missing’ in atmospheric measurements as compared to climate models. The warming of the oceans is also indisputable, which will both reinforce the greenhouse effect by stabilizing global temperature upwards and decreasing its ability to absorb carbon dioxide, because water holds more dissolved gas when its cold.

    Anyone who doesn’t have a motive to lie to you would also point out the retreat of glaciers on every continent and rapid polar melting of what has been permanent snowpack for thousands of years.

    This is going to contribute to rising sea levels and worldwide droughts, but it brings up a more basic point: Our ice is melting and you still don’t believe that the Earth is getting warmer.

    It’s easy to get, so toss it around for a while: Ice melting = temperature increasing. You can try it at home with your own ice that you made yourself if you don’t trust the claims of tricky professional scientists with their wild assertions about molar heat capacity and the specific heat of water. If you had anything else useful to say, this denial of reality on your part shreds your credibility.

    Levitt – Interesting post, and my compliments on the rabidity of your trolls ;)

    Thumb up 2 Thumb down 1
  18. Anonymous says:

    I haven’t heard yet the point that while abortion may be the cause for the decline in crime and murders in the 90′s, that doesn’t make it the best way to reduce crime. For instance, Iraq used to have very little crime when the ruthless Sadaam was in power. Dictatorships tend to do very well in controlling crime–but no one would recommend it. By the same token, all sides of the abortion issue could agree that it would be a morally better society if we had fewer abortions and deal with crime by providing the poor with the opportunity for advancement. Speaking of which, why didn’t abortion cause a favorable shift in the distribution of income in the US? With fewer poor being born you would think 20 years later we would see fewer and fewer poor yet we are seeing more…..

    Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0
  19. Shine says:

    Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see.

    Disliked! Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 7
  20. Thomas says:

    Is it possible that legalized abortion cost John Kerry just enough votes in 2004 to lose the election?

    I would think that more of these poor, young, and unmarried women would be Democrats if they voted. And say their children would be Democrats if they voted as well.

    Thumb up 1 Thumb down 3
  21. Hatcher says:

    I have long been familiar with the abortion = less violent crime down the line argument, which is an interesting idea and all, but who really cares? Can such an argument be used as a justification for abortion? “Down the line, we’re gonna have to give ‘em the electric chair anyway, so we might as well stick a pair of scissors into the back of the head of a partially delivered baby and save at least the life he would otherwise take (assuming of course its a he).”

    Even NARAL would shudder to make that argument, you would think.

    Thumb up 2 Thumb down 3
  22. Anonymous says:

    who really cares?

    There are good reasons to care that have absolutely nothing to do with how one feels about abortion. As the book points out, the drop in crime has been attributed to lots of causes – more police, software, “broken windows,” etc. Wouldn’t it be nice to know if any of those things matter? If we want to reduce crime shouldn’t we try to find out what strategies actually do that, as opposed to what just sounds good.

    This is not to argue that abortion should be legal because it lowers crime. It is to argue that, if legal abortion is in fact the cause of the crime drop, then some of these other ideas are overrated, and we should look elsewhere for crime prevention strategies.

    Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0
  23. It may be that statistics is not an exact science and that it cannot answer the truly important questions in life. Nevertheless, I am sure that some of those posters who claim that statistics can be made to say anything use prescription drugs, drugs that were proven “safe” using …oh, I don’t know, magic? Did Merck kill a cow and poke around in the innards when it ran all those tests? Of course, there are bad stats and there are good stats. The problem is figuring out which is which. Maybe some things really cannot be measured, but it is hard to know if we do not try. Regarding the abortion-lowers-crime idea, people should really just read the book (or the original paper, which is on Levitt’s website and is free) and see for themselves that Levitt is not advocating eugenics or killing poor or minority babies or anything like that. He is simply trying to find a relationship between the fall in crime and abortion. After all, it may be that totalitarian dictatoships are correlated with low rates of rape. That does not mean that such a system of government is desirable,only that such a relationship exists.

    PS Joel Best has a pair of fun and easy to read books about the use and abuse of statistics in social debates. The are on Amazon.
    PSS I am not Joel Best, so I get no money for mentioning his books.

    Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0
  24. Anonymous says:

    Right on, leslie

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  25. Shauna says:

    What makes you think I am sitting on my ass? I was a foster parent for years to abused children. I am a child advocate in many ways, I am the vice president of one PTA, and the incoming president another. The PTA is a wonderful organization that was actually formed to advocate for children. We came into existence to take children out of forced labor in sweatshops in the beginning of the 20th century, and to also provide them with lunches in schools. PTA is also responsible for this countries’ program of child immunization. I and my family volunteer many hours per month working on just the issues we are writing about here. I write letters, attend local school board meetings and city hall meetings attempting to get more funds for education locally, and for social services reform. I and my family volunteer in the community with church and secular organizations on a regular basis.

    Each person cannot save the whole world, but they can try to make their own little piece of it better.

    Now just what are you doing, besides whining on this blog? Have you taken a moment to get involved in any of these peoples’ lives, or is your answer to just extinguish the lives of kids who come from poor families. Maybe if you idealists out there took a minute out of your busy schedules to stop shaking your collective fingers at others and “each one reach one” this world would actually become a better place. It takes actual human contact to have an effect on people. And yes, I am actualy doing that, not just sitting on my ass. You picked the wrong person to make an assumption about.

    Further, I myself had a pretty poor life growing up. That being said, I wouldn’t take too kindly to any of you being in charge of making the decision that I would have been better off not being born because I was going to have a rotten life. That is not for you to decide. We are not all promised health and prosperity. We are only given life. No one promises any of us that we will get a fair shake. Would you who think that poor abused kids would be better off aborted then choose to abort all kids from Calcutta, Port Au Prince, Haiti, and Sri Lanka, I think not! Why should you abort American kids because they will in your opinion have a poor life. Think about it. And yes, abortion is a crime against at least one person, if not society as a whole.

    Shauna
    http://www.furthernotice.blogspot.com

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  26. Shauna says:

    Forgot to mention that I know many other people who don’t believe abortion is the answer who are also working on the problem as well. I am not alone. There is an old saying: 2 wrongs don’t make a right. Don’t combat the evil of poverty and ignorance with the evil of abortion. It only devalues people.

    Education, strong families and birth control yes, abortion, no.

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  27. Vince S says:

    I am no fan of abortion. I come from a very conservative family. However, it stands to reason here in Chicago where low income women have abortions that if you grow up in the projects, you get pregnant and decide to raise your child, there’s a better than average chance that the child will not only be exposed to a lot of criminal behavior but possibly take part in it as an adolescent or young adult. The chances are that in those cases abortion reduces crime. Are we to assume that every unborn child that was aborted and that was from the projects would have grown up to be a wonderful, gainfully employed adult???

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  28. Shauna says:

    “Are we to assume that every unborn child that was aborted and that was from the projects would have grown up to be a wonderful, gainfully employed adult???”
    First, There is not enough evidence to prove that abortion reduces the crime rate. Second, of course not! You can’t even assume that kids from suburbia will do that. Are you trying to to say that no one’s life who comes from poverty will be one of value? Someone above made the point that the people who have abortions are those who have the gumption, money and resources to have them, not the poorest of the poor, anyway.

    Shauna
    http://www.furthernotice.blogspot.com

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  29. George B says:

    Levitt’s thesis is not an argument about the ethics of abortion. In fact, he may not have even framed his thesis in the most effective way. If he had a way to measure the number or rate of undesired pregnancies that were carried to term with the unwanted child kept by the birth mother he might have a better way to frame the problem to those that don’t believe in abortion. Levitt’s analyzes an unintended consequence of Roe v. Wade – a likely reduction of the crime rate. However, because his analysis concludes that unwanted children are much more likely to become criminals than wanted children, there are other solutions than abortion to help reduce crime.

    Those that believe abortion is wrong would benefit their cause by supporting alternatives to abortion to reduce the number of unwanted children. Churches that oppose birth control aren’t helping the cause of reducing the number of abortions, for example. Conservatives that oppose sex education and providing birth control to minors are likely to increase the abortion rate and/or the crime rate. Liberals who support generous welfare programs are likely to have the unintended consequence of increasing the crime rate by encouraging mothers to keep children that are unwanted other than for the payments.

    I suspect one factor contributing to the high rate of crime in the African American community is that black babies are more likely to end up in foster care than babies of other backgrounds. There is a huge demand for adopting white babies so no unwanted white child need be kept by the birth parents. If the adoption demand for black babies could be increased, it is reasonable to conclude that crime could be reduced.

    If conservatives want to decrease the abortion rate they could press to change laws that prevent mothers from benefiting financially from giving up babies. While we may view baby selling as unethical, it is rational to conclude that allowing baby selling would reduce the abortion rate.

    My primary point is that there are often unintended consequences to laws that we don’t recognize. When someone like Levitt identifies an unintended consequence he is providing information that helps us make informed decisions. Much of the discussion here seems to be missing that point.

    Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0
  30. Jim Voigt says:

    Leslie,

    I find it amazing that you take issue with people that think abortion is a crime on the basis that you wish these abusive parents would have had abortions. While your desire to protect children from abuse is admirable, your total failure to consider alternatives is deplorable. What if, instead of an abortion, these mothers had not conceived a child in the first place?

    Here’s a nice little corellation for you: If you ave sex you are likely to get pregnant. If you get pregnant you are likely to give birth to a child. If you give birth to a child, you will be that child’s parent.

    So your solution to this string of events is to end the life of the child after it’s created as opposed to simply never creating it in thr first place.

    Of course, my approach would have that nasty sting of holding future parents accountable for their decision to have sex. We can’t have that in the “government holds my hand” inner city / transitional neighborhood.

    Time and time again government steps in after someone has made a poor life decision and helps clean up the mess. The more a person is isolated from the bad consequences of their poor life decisions, the more poor life decisions they will make.

    Thumb up 1 Thumb down 2
  31. William Lee says:

    I consider myself pro-choice but do not think that abortion should be taken lightly.The theory put forth in “Freakenomics” might have its heart in the right place in trying emphasize the ideal that children should be wanted but the argument is way too simplistic. Aspointe out by almost every other posted comment, there are way too many other variables involved to say that legalized abortion alone resulted in a lower crime rate. One could argue forever about which combination of social and econmic forces causes a change in the crime rate at any given time and the point is not to say that you have reached a final conclusion at any time but to keep a constant dialogue open. This theory does nothing to further that type of constructive dialogue.

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  32. Of course, the question is “who cares?” If it were shown, as some have suggested, that abortion wildly increased rates of child abuse and infanticide, would it mean that we had to ban abortion? I think few advocates of abortion would draw that connection.

    This is something akin to arguing that the national policy on emancipation and slavery should be driven by the economic benefits to be derived from one or the other. It’s a distraction from the real issue: either the mother has a right to get an abortion, or the fetus has a right not to be aborted.

    If statistics and crime are the driving force behind abortion policy, and not the question of liberty, then we could cut to the chase and REALLY let statistics and demographics run the show. As with the Eugenicists of the early 1900s, we could look at studies to determine which people are most likely to have kids that are criminal or welfare recipients – usually the poor, minorities, immigrant and single-mother families. Rather than hoping these people would choose to abort, we could (through targeted, mandatory abortion) glean out many or all of them from having kids until they bumped themselves into statistically better brackets (higher earnings, got married, different neighborhood, different state, etc.) and became less of a statistical risk.

    I think there’s a big mistake in putting more than casual-academic weight in actuarial thinking.

    Additionally, I can’t really buy into this argument that it reduces crime without hearing a real reason. That reason would almost invariably be either meaningless words (“wanted” children) or something offensively related to the parents status as unmarried, racial minorities, immigrants or poor (and so unlikely to be made by anybody outside of Stormfront).

    Until somebody explains to me more in depth why the aborted fetuses in question were more likely to become criminals, I have little reason to buy into the statistical argument. It makes it look like coincidence or model shortcomings.

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 1
  33. centuri0n says:

    Anonymous said…
    “I wonder why the abortion rate hasn’t also impacted the unemployment rate?”

    Why should it?

    Because people who are violent criminals can’t hold down day jobs. The personality traits for being a violent felon are pretty good indicators that one will be unemployed.

    If the people who would have been violent felons were simply aborted, the places they would have held in the employment cycle would also have been eliminated — thus, fewer unemployed.

    Is it possible that the Clinton Era’s economic boon was actually a function of the legalization of abortion?

    Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0
  34. Catharine says:

    Tommaso Sciortino wrote: “Throwing your hands up in the air and explaining “well, everything’s a theory” when some scientific fact is inconvenient (be it evolution or this) is scientific relativism of the worst sort.”

    Thank you. You said it much better than I did in my previous post.

    ~C~

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  35. Anonymous says:

    I can speak from personal experience on this one, as I was an unwanted child. I know because again and again I was told so. I was told that I should not expect much from my (single) mother, as I should be happy to simply be alive, ‘not aborted’ as she put it. I grew up an avid reader with a strong interest in science. -
    My mother hid the fact that she was an unwed mother.. (I now understand why she did this..) She even lied to me.. about important things..

    I remember vividly hearing a commercial on the radio when I was around nine or ten admonishing kids to stay in school and go to college. Realizing that my dream of becoming a scientist would be impossible without a college degree, I begged my mother to help, no ‘you are so smart you don’t need to go to college’… Anyway.. you can guess the rest..

    I was never able to finish college.. dropping out three times because of money.. I struggled trying to pay back my student loans for over fifteen years.. You don’t make much without a degree, nomatter how smart you are.. During the Internet boom, for a while, I did fairly well.. now I’m just getting by…

    For a while my lack of a degree didnt matter… It does now, again..

    YES, THIS THEORY IS CLEARLY RIGHT.. at least to me.. And I should know.. I haven’t told a tenth of it…

    Nonmarital children are treated like dirt.. We are often killed by people.. (and I don’t mean abortion..I mean killed..)

    Think about it..

    Its genocide…

    Women should not be forced to have children.. They take it out on them.. Adoption is a multimillion dollar industry that steals babies from poor women and sells them to rich women.. That is what is really driving this debate.. the supply of white (yes, its also a race issue) is drying up.. (no, I’m not black, I’m white) Class does matter.. Read the series this week in the New York Times.

    We need to wake up from the American *dream* and invest more in America and Americans.. instead of grandiose fantasies…

    Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0
  36. Anonymous says:

    There are lots of other factors that matter too..

    Environmental pollutants are causing major health problems for lots of people.. Plasticizers in our environment are causing children to enter puberty earlier, as well as neurological problems..autism, asbergers. Contaminants in the water table are impossible to filter out, again, they may cause neurogical, hormonal or eventual cancer problems.. The right would like to eliminate corporate liability and make it a matter of personal choice.. You can pay more, and get clean water, or get the polluted water out of your tap…

    You can make a lifestyle choice to live in the polluted town, with the other poor people, or work hard, get into a good school, etc. (even if you went to a high school that didn’t measure up?) Didn’t get in? Well, you must be an inferior cretin.. Accepted to Yale? well, you are ‘leader material’ Get the picture? We are throwing our future away so that the George Bushs of the world can look good – when they don’t deserve it…

    All I can say is a country that is so obstinately wasting its lives and steering itself down a path to decline may deserve it..

    Maybe the world is a meritocracy in that sense… But isn’t it sad.. And avoidable..

    But not exactly the way the holier-than-thou would have you believe it…

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  37. Jules Siegel says:

    I don’t buy the abortion reduced crime theory because there are too many other equally (un)believable explanations, but let’s accept it for the moment. This then leads to a question that I don’t believe I’ve seen raised. If unwanted children are more likely to become criminals than wanted children, what are we doing to make sure that more children are wanted rather than aborted?

    I’m neither pro- or anti-abortion. I believe that any abortion is a tragic event, but an individual decision that the state should not make a crime. The anti-abortion crowd stands for right-to-life from conception to birth. After that, they easily switch from their usual creationism (oops — intelligent design) to the survival of the fittest.

    I think that abortion is just the cheapest solution to a problem that could be solved by more humane means, such as glorifying and rewarding motherhood and making it possible for women to have children and raise them without reference to economic considerations. You can’t raise this idea without being accused of being anti-woman by the feminists, who also happen to be pro-choice.

    Levitt’s theory is appealing from a media standpoint because the media (like the professoriate) are largely pro-choice. This gives them a sharp stick to plunge into the eye of the anti-abortion movement. It’s also a very convenient smokescreen for avoiding the real reasons for crime — poverty, hopelessness, injustice and, most of important, the role of industrialism in reducing children to the status of unwanted vermin rather than humanity’s hope for a better future.

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  38. centuri0n says:

    OK: I bought Freakonomics, and I read the whole thing, and, since I’m commenting on this post in particular, you can imagine that the chapter on abortion and the crime rate was the one that has left me somewhat agitated.

    Let me say this first: whether you “agree with” (which is to say, “have no objections to”) the semi-eugenic conclusion that abortion leads to lower crime rates or you “disagree with” (which is to say, “have an agenda which makes the conclusion unthinkable”, and I place myself in this second group), the argument reads like apocalyptic science fiction, and it has got to give you a sick feeling in your stomach. Does no one else really see the parallel between this theory/conclusion and Swift’s “A Modest Proposal”?

    I wish I was able to make the case that this is an incidence of corollation and not causation, but when 80% of the abortions in the last 30 years were by single women, and more than 50% of all abortions were had by women under the age of 25, 2/3rds of all women having abortions say they cannot afford to have a child, and half say they do not want to raise a child as a single parent or in a troubled home, there’s not much left to say. (those are the AGI stats)

    I wonder why the abortion rate hasn’t also impacted the unemployment rate?

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  39. Anonymous says:

    “I wonder why the abortion rate hasn’t also impacted the unemployment rate?”

    Why should it?

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  40. Steve Sailer says:

    This is Steve Sailer:

    Isn’t it a logical inevitability that abortion reduces the crime rate? While the historical evidence raises strong doubts about this popular theory, many people assume it must be true on simple logical grounds. A reader writes:

    “You began your “Pre-emptive Executions?” article by asking:

    “Did legalizing abortion in the early 70s reduce crime in the late 90s by allowing “pre-emptive capital punishment” of potential troublemakers?

    “Steve, the answer to the above question is obviously yes. If you abort a disproportionate number of the fetuses that would grow up to be criminals, you must reduce the crime rate. Of course there may be many other factors that effect the crime rate, as you point out, but these factors don’t change the basic fact that elective abortion has reduced the crime rate. To argue otherwise is to make you come off as a doctrinaire conservative, rather than as a scientist.”

    This seems tautological, but keep in mind that in our country, educated people have a notorious history of misreading how not-so-educated people would react to changes in family structure incentives. For example, all the smart people in 1961 favored raising welfare payments to a few hundred dollars per month and giving it to unmarried mothers. Nobody they knew would have a baby out of wedlock just to get a welfare check.

    Levitt assumes that legalizing abortion reduces the “unwantedness” of the babies who do get born. A close reading of Steven Levitt’s book suggests that the reality, however, is not clear at all.

    First, we certainly didn’t see an increase in wantedness by the fathers of the unborn babies that managed to get born. Legalizing abortion reduced the moral pressure on impregnating boyfriends to marry their girlfriends.

    The illegitimacy rate grew steadily from 1964 (which, counterintuitively, was the year The Pill was introduced, yet was also the inflection point in the great illegitimacy upswing), until it suddenly somewhat pleateaued in 1995, the year after the violence rate began dropping, and a few years after the abortion rate began dropping, perhaps not coincidentally.

    Lots of people assume that illegitimacy and abortion must be inversely correlated, but the historical record in America shows that they are both high at the same time and low at the same time.

    The simplest model appears to be that the Crack Era of the early 1990s was when a lot of the offshoots of the Liberal Ascendancy of 1964-1980 — crime, illegitimacy, abortion, and venereal diseases such as AIDS — were seen by many people as all coming home to roost, and a broad turn toward more traditional morality began in reaction to the horrors on the streets.

    After the legalization of abortion, there was not a major drop in unwanted births as Levitt assumed when he concocted his theory, and he still implies even though he knows the facts are otherwise. Instead, there was a major rise in unwanted pregnancies. According to Levitt’s own words, “Conceptions rose by nearly 30 percent, but births actually fell by 6 percent …” I know I reiterate this, but it’s a stunning fact that you never hear in the abortion debate from either side, and it’s a key to grasping what the impact of legalizing abortion was in reality, not theory.

    Nor is it clear that this small decline in birthrate improved the quality of upbringing of the survivors.

    Imagine a woman who started having unprotected sex because abortion was legalized. She gets pregnant, but then, for one reason or another, doesn’t have an abortion.

    Perhaps she hopes that having the baby will persuade the father to marry her. Perhaps when the father refuses to marry her she decides that if no man loves her, well, at least a baby would love her and cheer her up. Maybe all her girlfriends are having babies and it seems like the fashionable thing to do in her circle. Maybe it gets her out of having to go to high school and take a lot of boring classes she doesn’t understand. Perhaps she finds she can get her own public housing project apartment and move out of her nagging mother’s house if she becomes a mother herself, and then she can have sex with all the men she wants. Perhaps she keeps forgetting her appointment at the clinic because she’s not too bright. Perhaps every time she gets the cash together for an abortion, she spends it on drugs first.

    It’s a statistical certainty that millions of babies were conceived because abortion was legalized but then were born for these kind of reasons. How many? I don’t know.

    But it’s not at all impossible that legalizing abortion could have, on the whole, lowered the quality of parents and the upbringing they give their kids. In fact, it seems pretty likely that out of the tens of millions of women who had unwanted pregnancies due to legalizing abortion (tens of millions according to Levitt’s own numbers), the ones who went ahead and had abortions tended to be the more ambitious, better organized women, while some of the ones didn’t get around to having abortions were the more scatter-brained women.
    This model fits what we all saw on the streets a lot better than Levitt’s model. Urban black women had huge numbers of legal abortions from 1971 onward, far more than any other group. According to Levitt’s logic, that should have improved the black male teenagers of the late 1980s through early 1990s.Yet, what evidence is there from, say, 1990 to 1994 that black males born in 1971-1979 were better behaved than the previous generation? The better behaved generation of black teens actually were the ones born in the early 1980s, yet the nonwhite abortion rate peaked back in 1977.

    A reader writes:

    Regarding the press’s effusive response to Levitt’s theory that legalized abortion has cut crime rates:

    Many members of the educated classes probably believed this about abortion long before Levitt ever formalized the argument. His book has just made it more acceptable to talk about the subject openly. Poking holes in Levitt’s argument does not change minds among the educated elite because his theory happens to fit so well with their view of the world.

    For the educated, the process of having a child activates the same decision making skills as making a major career move. They can’t even imagine doing it without considering timing, finances, impact on their professional lives, and a host of other factors.

    They realize that accidents happen, of course — and that’s where abortion comes in. Abortion corrects family planning mistakes. It also allows the careless lower orders to catch up with themselves, the responsible users of birth control.

    The educated assume that, with abortion available to eliminate errors, live births surely must represent children that are planned (or at least actively wanted by the time they’re born). Given these assumptions, it just seems obvious to elites that abortion must be cutting crime by reducing the number of babies in the “unwanted” category.

    Maybe the chattering classes would find it less obvious if they could see the issue from evolution’s point of view — one in which planning and wantedness have nothing to do with reproduction.

    As far as nature is concerned, producing offspring is the default position. It’s just what living things do. Beating nature at her own game takes intelligence, foresight, and planning — all of which tend to be in short supply at the bottom rungs of society and among the low IQ population.

    Every means of avoiding baby production — abstinence, contraception, abortion –requires some level of self control, active decision-making, or competence. By contrast, producing a baby requires nothing more than having sex and waiting.

    Thus, it is almost inevitable that many babies will be born to women who are among the most impulsive, the least capable, and the least intelligent. How could it be otherwise? No need to even consider the issue of wantedness. It’s just evolution w
    inning again.

    Inopportune pregnancy obviously has been around for a long time. During the 15th through 19th centuries, many European countries apparently dealt with the resulting babies by dumping them into foundling homes, where the vast majority died from disease and malnutrition. Sarah Blaffer Hrdy discusses this in horrifying detail in her book *Mother Nature,* where she estimates that millions of babies were abandoned throughout Europe. Some foundling homes even installed revolving barrels so that parents could drop off infants anonymously.

    My guess is that the foundling home system, brutal as it was, probably was much more efficient than modern day abortion at culling the crime-prone and otherwise “least likely to succeed” babies.

    In past centuries, women who failed to acquire adequate economic resources through marriage or work would also have failed to keep their offspring alive. Without welfare available, unwed or poor mothers would have had little choice but to give their infants up to the foundling home, and to likely death. Thus, most women who successfully raised children would have been at least minimally competent in a social and economic context.

    By contrast, today’s “abortion + welfare” system virtually ensures that many of the most incompetent and least intelligent women will give birth and raise their children to adulthood. The likely result is an increase in crime, not a decrease.

    Many of those discussing Levitt’s argument coyly refer to it as “controversial,” while clearly thinking it’s a bit of a giggle. I wonder if they would find it so amusing to see what a really effective “preemptive execution” system looked like.

    Let me try to model this with numbers. The model that Levitt wants you to assume, even though he knows it’s not true, is something like the following:

    - Assume before the legalization of abortions that there are 100 conceptions and thus (ignoring miscarriages) 100 births.

    - Assume that abortion is legalized and the 25 “most unwanted” pregnancies are aborted.

    - Assume that “most unwanted” is roughly synonymous with “least promising.”

    - So, now only the 75 most promising fetuses are born and the 25 least promising never grow up to mug you. As J. Stalin liked to say while signing death warrants, “No man, no problem.”

    Now, it’s easy to see the lack of realism is these assumptions. The assumption that the 25 who get aborted will be the 25 least promising is grossly over-optimistic. For example, women are seldom making decisions on abortion not based on where their unborn children would come out relative to the other 99 but on other, more personal grounds. There might be a certain tendency in that direction, but it’s going to be attenuated.

    But, that’s just the surface of what’s wrong with this model. It’s actually radically fallacious because it doesn’t account for the vast increase in unwanted pregnancies, which is ethically sleazy of Levitt, because he knows all about what actually occurred.

    Here’s what really happened, according to Levitt’s own statement in Freakonomics: “Conceptions rose by nearly 30 percent, but births actually fell by 6 percent …”
    Thus, what happened looked more like this.

    - After legalization, there were now 129 conceptions, not 100, and 35 abortions, leaving 94 births instead of 100.

    - But who were those 94 births? This is where it gets terribly murky.

    — Some of those births will be of the 29 who wouldn’t have been conceived without legalization. Women got pregnant assuming, consciously or unconsciously, that they’d have an abortion, then didn’t get one for any of a host of reason. Will these kids turn out better or worse than the ones who are getting aborted? Who knows?

    The 94 births could have turned out more promising, less promising, or the same. Nobody knows, including Dr. Levitt.

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  41. Anonymous says:

    Would that all who put their faith in statistics could see how arcane and absurd this entire series of posts sounds to the average, and even intelligent, person (for the record, I have a post-graduate degree). There’s no question in my mind that statistics is the systematic theology of secularism. Think about it. Systematic theologians (look up that term if you don’t know what it means) all use the same source material, the Bible, but they all come up with wholly different ideas of how to approach and interpret that material, which leads to different views of what is “true.” When preached, those views affect real lives and decisions. This whole discussion reminds me of some theological discussions. In the end, it’s not the source material that makes the difference, but the presuppositions that you bring to interpreting that material. It’s not so much about putting your faith in what you believe, but about believing what you have already put your faith in. Frankly, I have little faith in statistics applied to social issues. And if you really believe statistics is an “exact science” then your faith is misplaced. Get a real life!

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 2
  42. While analogy is a powerful tool and Steven attempts to avoid importing disagreements in the arena of statistical combat over global warming into that of the social consequences of abortion by using a loosely ‘arguendo’ technique, i.e. “Let’s say that we are living in a world in which global warming is taking place”, he simultaneously invokes the ‘be careful what you wish for’ proposition.

    If we were to take these abortion arguments in the context of those over global warming, in line with this analogy, this would buttress the case of those who suggest that it we haven’t a clue of all the variables involved and that trying to tease a clear result in favor of a predominate influence for one variable is almost inevitably the result of subconsciously favoring that argument (well, in the case of global warming it mayn’t be subconscious).

    In other words, lets forget about the varying strength of the sun, let’s all but give up on reliable modeling of how cloud formation figures in this dynamic regimen, and when the results don’t seem to support the original proposition don’t go zero sum, look for a factor to back out and support the original conclusion about the cause. This starts to sound a lot more like judges looking for precedents that get them to a desired outcome in a case than a scientists reaching articulately defensible propositions.

    The abortion reduces crime theory has far more intuitive plausibility (without regard to what one thinks of abortion) than a human signal in global warming. This is not to advance the notion that a human contribution to climate via CO2 emission is implausible or nonexistent, but to suggest that any rational consideration of the climate system puts global warming more in the realm of a ‘tipping point’ theory than a solid statistical argument) and I think Steven thus does his arguments a disservice for the sake of a simple analogy.

    Of course the idea of El Nino as representative of the ‘crack’ epidemic is convenient, but in the world of global warming advocacy virtually all weather changes are blamed by the popular press reprinting environmentalist news release on the purported background trend rather than seriously advancing the idea of disaggregation. If you have a colder winter it’s global warming, if you have a warmer winter it’s global warming, if Florida gets hit by 4 hurricanes its global warming, some folks even pussyfooted around with how to blame the southeast Asian tsunami on global warming. Given that the very idea of Freakonomics is putting these analyses before popular, rather than scientific, readers there is a great risk in invoking this comparison.

    I do appreciate the reasoned response to Sailer’s essay and it is telling that there has been no comeback. However I think Tierney has the right idea in the article on your debate with Gladwell (unsurprisingly in my book as Tierney first burst onto my viewscreen with a radical – some would argue reactionary but, once the status quo goes over to the progressives, libertarian economists become the radicals — debunking of the notion that recycling was necessarily a good idea). He seems to be saying that cooler heads should prevail. That there likely is not a stupendous narrative in the New York crime story but numerous factors that contributed to a new equilibrium.

    It may be rhetorically convenient to focus on the squeegee men in the same way that politicians focus on some tiny constituency of the electorate that they think offers them the extra percentage point to win a close election while all but ignoring the base that got them to 49%. Nor should one necessarily disregard the possibility that the public perception of that waning squegee trend or other similar discouragements regarding who ‘owned’ the streets could have significantly contributed to a co-dependent effect I intuit that more comfort with the streets means more people on the streets as pedestrians, as subway riders, etc. making them plausibly safer by creating more possible observors and intervenors relative to crime. Crime must retreat to the fringes where people are fewer and easier to pick off meaning it loses geographically as well as demographically.

    But Tierney points to the ‘base’ of these trends, more police — perhaps more to the point a 100% increase in performance (25% to 50% of police actually policing). He only hints at the statistical basis for this claim but this could represent to crime what solar influence represents to global warming, i.e. the lion’s share. Figuring this out is going to be difficult, but presumably there was some significant change in arrests or convictions per officer. Of course the question is does that mean more crime was going on or more criminals were being apprehended. My guess is that it is really going to be difficult to find good data sets that could compare the multiplicity of social factors that contributed. That does not negate the idea that a strong signal on the effect of legalized abortion deserves serious inquiry.

    I haven’t seen anything in this argumentation regarding whether one can fairly relate crime rates to the absolute number of criminals. My recollection is that the solving of crime is still relatively low although I can’t quote any numbers (it is something that sticks in the back of mind like peanut butter on the tongue) so how do we know how many people were actually committing these crimes. How do we know that a diminished crime rate doesn’t still represent more people committing a small number of crimes? In which case the fundamental notion that abortion reduced the number of likely criminals wouldn’t wash. Can these statistics be translated reliably into comparative numbers of individuals? One supposes of the crimes that are ‘solved’ you can try to extrapolate the number of murders per murderer or robberies per robber although that would only apply for the solved murders and robberies and not necessarily insure that we understood the number of other crimes that may or may not have been committed by convicted criminals.

    Now I’m just dreaming up confounders. So it’s time to throw it back to the blog. I do agree with Tierney’s conclusion that the ideas that make you comfortable are the one’s to watch out for. Of course that is a two-way street. The ‘abortion reduces crime’ argument makes me comfortable. It seems not simply intuitively, but deductively, seductive, so I’m watching out for it.

    Ciao,

    Brian (not the same Brian – as Monty Python’s troupe once said, “I’m Brian and so’s me wife”)

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  43. It seems deadman, that you are not arguing against Levitt’s hypothesis so much as you are arguing against statistics itself. Yes, we are all familiar with the fact that correlation does not prove causation. This is old news. The fact is that if after controlling for all the variables you can think of (as any decent economist would) you find that two things are still related (abortion and crime) then you have to accept what the evidence shows as being science’s best guess.

    Throwing your hands up in the air and explaining “well, everything’s a theory” when some scientific fact is inconvenient (be it evolution or this) is scientific relativism of the worst sort.

    Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0
  44. samatha H. says:

    Some people have said that Levitt’s abortion/crime rate theory is racist, but I fail to see how this is. People of other races, ethnic groups, etc, commit crimes as well. If anything it is biased against the lower socieconomic classes, but I will not get into that.
    I don’t recall who said something along the lines of “ending poverty will end crime”. This is not true for human nature will always tempt people to cheat or steal to better themselves or those they love.
    I agree that there are many factors that influence crime besides abortion. Perhaps, ensuring that all children get good educations and have activities to get or keep them off the streets than they will be less likely to engage in crime. People who have hope don’t join gangs.

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  45. RK says:

    I’ll say this, your post is causing quite a controversy, BUT nothing like this blog:

    whowilldietoday.blogspot.com

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  46. herb says:

    I really enjoyed the erudition of your piece. Reactionary arguments have to be illogical. Reactionaries don’t want to listen to anything or anybody because it would impugn impunity to bow before mere evidence. It is a mental disease, really. And apparently a contagious one that we will all die of regardless of whether we contract it or not.

    herb

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  47. Peter says:

    Steve Sailer also has suggested that the lower-income women most likely to get abortions are the ones who have some degree of responsibility and ambition. The truly hopeless ones are less likely to get abortions; either they want a child despite lacking the resources to care for one, or they are too irresponsible to get themselves to abortion clinics. He posits that the down-and-out women in the latter category are the ones whose children are most likely to become criminals.
    Do you believe this is true, and if so how does it affect the abortion-cuts-crime theory?

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  48. Anonymous says:

    This whole series of posts convinces me even more that, applied to social issues, statistics do not and can not “prove” anything. Like raw steel, statistical data can be ground and pounded into one’s blade of choice, to do with as one wants, with more or less skill than the opponent who has access to the same raw steel. The great liberal triumph of the past half century has been to pull off the incredible sleight of hand that has turned statistical data into empirical “fact,” and statisticians into social commentators. With a liberal press (by and large) hungry for anything that will sell media, the result has been a classic co-dependent relationship. Statisticians, in some unfortunate circles, have become like demigods. And, of course, in the liberal political world, statistics have become the ultimate weapon for liberal policy making.

    In the case of abortion, statistics do not prove anything, but rather just give the pols something to sharpen the edges of their social swords so they can appear to be correct, when in fact they just want to have the upper hand from a good statistical sound bite. The problem is, we all know too many statistical claims that have been taken as “fact” for decades, and have influenced social policy, even though later proved untrue. How? Simply because they were quoted and requoted. It’s no coincidence we use the term “social engineering.” Engineers use data however they think best to achieve a desired end in the most effective and efficient way possible. Statisticians can do the same, and we call them social engineers.

    No amount of statistical manipulation or interpretation can justify abortion. Whether or not you agree that it is morally wrong to kill a child in utero, it is unquestionably morally wrong to conclude that abortion is “good” or justifiable based on arguable statistical data and biased interpretations (like politicians, no statistician is unbiased). Statistics are certainly useful for marketing, insurance, surveys, and measurable testing, but not for social engineering. Leave that to people with moral convictions who will do what is right, not just what is statistically appealing. Moral strength does not need a flashy sword to prove its point. Lesser men (and women) rely on the glint of their statistical steel, rather than the steel of moral strength. Statistical swords can seriously harm too many innocent people once the steel starts flying. We all know the bloody swath in history that kind of thinking has left.

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 1
  49. Paul says:

    Can the people who are preaching that abortion is wrong please borrow a copy of the book and spend 10 minutes reading the chapter? Levitt does not believe abortion is good or bad or right or wrong. He didn’t start looking at how to make abortion more attractive by finding some hidden benefits. He was simply trying to explain why CRIME fell, and NOT some heretofor undiscovered benefit of abortion. Again, spend ten minutes and read the chapter before going on a diatribe about the morality of it, because it’s clearly explained in the pages what the point of the research was.

    As for people who think statistics can be used to show anything, if you can show me how, I’d love to learn from you.

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  50. Steve Sailer says:

    This is Steve Sailer:

    My overall view is that it is beyond the capabilities of contemporary social science to answer definitively the question of how abortion affected crime. Having looked at the data over the last six years, it appears to me that there is about as much evidence that legalizing abortion drove the violent crime rate up, especially in the 1987-1994 era when serious violence among 14-17 year olds hit an all time high, as that it drove the violent crime rate down.

    I’d like to address two crucial issues: exactly what is Dr. Levitt claiming and upon whom should rest the burden of proof.

    I addressed “ceteris paribus” (or “all else being equal”) in my Slate.com debate in 1999 with Dr. Levitt. After noting that the murder rate went up apocalyptically among in late 1980s and early 1990s among the very group that had the most abortions in the 1970s: 14-17 year old blacks, I noted:

    “Admittedly, it’s still theoretically possible that without abortion the black youth murder rate would have, say, sextupled instead of merely quintupling [from 1984 to 1993].” — http://slate.msn.com/id/33569/entry/33571/

    Logically, this is what Dr. Levitt must be arguing over these last six years. But you can instantly see why he never makes clear his case. There’s two problems: the first is that saying this instantly raises the question of why Levitt refuses to investigate the at least equally interesting question of whether legalizing abortion first drove crime up. As I wrote then:

    “Still, there’s a more interesting question: Why did the places with the highest abortion rates in the ’70s (e.g., NYC and Washington D.C.) tend to suffer the worst crack-driven youth crime waves in the early ’90s?”

    As Dr. Levitt notes today: “The homicide rate of young males (especially young Black males) temporarily skyrocketed in the late 1980s, especially in urban centers like Los Angeles, New York City, and Washington, DC.”

    But, of course, abortion was legalized in Los Angeles and New York in 1970, three years before Roe v. Wade, and it was largely de facto legal in Washington D.C. from the same point. Funny, isn’t it, how the crack wars got started exactly in those big cities where legal abortion got started?

    Obviously, in the sciences the longer the lag, the less truthworthy the assertion of causal correlation. Yet, Dr. Levitt seems to put more faith in longer lags. What we see from looking at the FBI statistics is that serious violent crime shot up among those most affected by legalized abortion: 14-17 year olds in early legalizing metropolises.

    Dr. Levitt, however, doesn’t want us to think about that correlation. He long ago decided that we should only wonder about the hidden reasons why crime went down _later_. As for the hidden reasons why violent crime went up _earlier_ and earlier in some places than others, well, who needs to look in depth? All we need to know is Crack!

    The other reason why Dr. Levitt has not been forthcoming about what he is really saying is the obvious dubiousness of what Dr. Levitt is claiming: He is implying that: Although my theory fails its single best test case in catastrophic fashion, I can still separate out the very subtle breeze of the effects of legalizing abortion from the hurricane of other simultaneous events, such as the rise and fall of the crack wars, vast increases in imprisonment, the deaths by murder and AIDS of huge numbers of criminals, changes in police tactics, the decline in the abortion rate from 1992 onward, changes in the economy, increased sales of guns to law-abiding citizens, increased number of cops, the rise of rent-a-cops, the spread of alarms and video cameras, the rise of marijuana among the urban underclass, the spread of Depo-Provera contraceptive shots, etcetera etcetera…

    Well, good luck…

    And that brings us to the question of the burden of proof. Upon whom should it rest: Dr. Levitt or me?

    Dr. Levitt is a sympathetic figure, perhaps a heroic one, considering the difficulty of the analytical burden he has undertaken.

    I am a less appealing figure: the scoffer, the sniper, the naysayer. I do not offer a complete model of the causes of crime trends as Dr. Levitt claims to do. Nor do I feel competent to undertake one. I am merely poking holes in his big theory.

    Yet, it’s a wise maxim in the sciences that large assertions require large evidence. Levitt’s abortion-cut-crime theory is one of the bigger social science assertions of recent times. The weight of the evidence, however, falls far short of the weight of the importance of his claim. So, by all traditions of science, the burden of proof lies upon him, and he has failed to meet it.

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  51. Steve Sailer says:

    This is Steve Sailer:

    You can find much more analysis, graphs, and data on the abortion-crime hypothesis at http:/www.iSteve.com/abortion.htm

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  52. Steve Sailer says:

    This is Steve Sailer:

    You can find my response to the first half of Dr. Levitt’s posting at

    http:www.iSteve.com/abortion.htm

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  53. Anonymous says:

    Yep, bet if we rounded up a large population of disadvantaged toddlers and killed them we’d see a big drop in crime as well-doesn’t mean it’s a good idea.

    Proof of the idea that abortion is the genocide of poor black people-no wonder the elite in this country are so gung ho about it.

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  54. dustinsh says:

    If you actually read the book, I think levitt makes a very strong moral and economic arguement against abortion despite the initial knee jerk reaction to his findings. Levitt should be comended for his willingness to report the truth, no matter how disturbing some people may find it.

    Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0
  55. Jake says:

    I just wanted to say that you are the man.

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  56. Anonymous says:

    The person who wrote that concealed weapons laws reduced crime was John Lott. To see a paper challenging Lott’s position, see Duggan (JPE) or a more recent working paper by Phillips (NBER, 2005)
    As for abortion. Has anyone done this study for England?

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  57. Anonymous says:

    I have 3 statistical questions regarding the Abortion Regression.

    (1) You say in the book that preganancies rose 30% post Roe v. Wade, but births declined 6%. Implying that Abortion is replacing other forms of Birth Control to a large extent. So states with High v. Low abortion rates may not be relevant. A state with a 36% abortion rate could be roughly equivalent to a state with a 6% abortion rate if they did not see the +30% increase. Should you look at (normalized) birth rates not abortions?

    (2) How are you measuring Crack in the regression? You say in the book that it isn’t users it is dealers who commit the crimes. Therfore the relevant measure should not be useage but marginal gain for marginal turf gain. The crash in price is relevant not the level of use.

    (3) The logic of your paper argues that unwantedness leads to crime. The proxy for this in the bast is children in poverty and single-parent households. I would suggest using a variable for births into poverty and births to unmarried mothers as variables in your regression, so that you can isolate the degree of unwantedness attributeable to abortions. One of Sailer’s key criticisms is that post roe v wade abortions possibly led to higher rates of “illegitimacy”. So why not include that as a variable?

    Thanks,
    Jeff

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  58. Anonymous says:

    Sorry for some of the misspellings above. “bast” was supposed to be “past”. The other misspellings get the meaning accross.

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  59. deadman says:

    Anonymous #12 named Jeff makes my point exactly he has noticed more varibles I didn’t mention. There are people on here, who, if they thought on it, could come up with 10 more challenging variables that have to be accounted for as well. So, What do you think Mr. Levitt?? How reasonable is it to do microanalysis on macro-range issues in Economics? Me again.

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  60. Catharine says:

    To “the real me” — actually, crime doesn’t just “go in waves”. Crime is a sociological phenomenon that follows distinct patterns based on historical and cultural influences that can be quantified and measure. To read the entire essay, then shrug and say, “Aw, crime just goes in waves and can’t really be attributed to any one thing,” is just to ignore factual data. This decision that we’ve made to simply ignore statistical and scientific data in favor of the “it’s all too complex to explain with numbers (or fossils or carbon dating)” is starting to get on my very last nerve.

    A big reason crime goes up in the summertime is — surprise! — the heat. Ask any law enforcement officer. Is it the only thing? Probably not. But if you take into account that, as the weather warms, criminals and potential victims are outside more and in closer proximity, then it can be reasonably assumed that heat makes for more opportunity for crime. Add to that that extreme heat tends to make people cranky and unpleasant, and the possiblities for crime between non-criminals who simply lose their tempers rises as well. So, yeah.

    It’s simply not logical to dismiss statistical data with a wave of your hand and the statement, “Well, there are many factors at work here. Who can say?” Statisticians can. Scientists can. Sociologists and anthropologists can. And with reasonably accurate precision.

    ~C~

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  61. deadman says:

    catherine no one (I think) is “dismissing” factors that do actually affect different sociological trends. What is being done is to look very hard at how many factors do the effect, and how much and how accurately we can say a factor is causal, and with what presicion…And then to determine how much certainty is unchallengeably real. If it can be truely determined (what ever that factor might be and in whatever trend it applies)Then….The remaining question is: what do we do with it? Is it something we can only put on the shelf to continue working toward a greater level of pure validity? Is is a large, almost rock solid icon… almost law…that can be used as an element of policy formation with no peripheral chance of damage in what ever form in “human hurt”?? Maybe we do find a real component of sociological impact. Is it so well studied, that if we know all of its ramifications, if we try to make use of the data we can predict the outcome? This is what has to be closely examined. Unfortunately this type of Social architectual attempt at using this sort of data is just dangerous. We have well learned the dangers of assumptions in areas of sciences much harder than the social ones. Even damage due to well established science so solid it produces technologies that have been long embraced,.. we loosed into the population only to find after decades that there were undiscovered factors that produced damage that could not be reversed. Damage so old that no suits could be filed because no one could be said to have ever known or even imagined the possibility. Look at Estrogen Replacement Therapy practiced for decades. Only to discover that not only was it not helpful to heart bone breast and uterus, even the brain. It was for some women damaging. My own mother with no history except for one case of cancer (not breast)in her whole family after a histerectomy at age 36 loses one breast at age 65. Then the other at age 70. She is a survivor thankfully….. But similarly I can in no way say for certain that that treatment was the cause. One single anecdotal case. But, no woman will have the same treatment at age 36 today. Why? because of the very risk of such a possible outcome. She is 76 today. Even hard Sciences bring in social factors such as television, radio, cellphone, internet, video, cable, microwaves, Automobiles, and on one could list, Yet we still don’t know what all of this means. Nor can we measure all the impacts and their intereciprocitous sythesis of change to positive and negative in what ever direction they move our minds and lives. Call me a luddite; …But we won’t know what impacts all of these changes have evidenced into our lives until we know. Many we never will. Many will be left to be discovered by centuries to come. We have been on the face of this amazing planet for only a short, short time. We need to be very careful about the introduction of information with out judicious qualification of our findings. Very Judicious….Stephen

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  62. deadman says:

    I am writing back because I was curious to see if you had any interest in the idea I touted earlier, Mr. Levitt. That despite random variation shifts by minor variables such as in your El nino analogy:.. I am discussing the same analogy, except the Idea that one impacting variable of minor, therefore, extractable from the equation,… Is an example of what I am asking::: IS IT possible to extract all the noise??? And point out that it is indeed noise. You point to how the crack problem is extractable as noise and find data as to why. Fine…What I am suggesting is how is it possible to suggest that such an issue of the Crack problem that should Damage the sturdy model but fits as extractable noise. While I contend there is so much more noise to extract!!… Arno Penzias When working at Bell labs was trying to extract noise from a freqency of Microwaves with a new antenna Described by George Gamow years before in a paper He stated : Such an antenna will easily detect microwave background radiation from the birth of the universe.. The big bang. Although penzias and his collegue (whose name I can’t recall) won the Nobel prize in Physics.. At the time they didn’t know what it was or even what they’ed found. Why is this so hard to say? People can look at data and say oh this is a real factor “check it out”!! Others may have not a clue. Working out all these variables (even knowing they exist) is difficult in hard Science. I just don’t see how with so many other variables why it even matters if we disover that Crack was not a factor…The line is long. Besides there is still the argument that you cannot prove what you prevent. If you stop something from happening, Yet the trail to its absence is fraught with multitudes of other behaviors and incidents, conditions, Changes in Mores over 30 years. The only point that is worth considering is how closely will every value properly weighted for these upteen other factors; follows state implementation and adoption as policy….. How closely the changes in crime rate follow the trend in every state individually as more abortions were done in percapita stats as the changes were implemented more slowly in some areas and quicker in others. How well does this multiweighted variable mesh with the thesis: Abortion lowered the crime rate on a continuous descent over the 1992 to approx.2002 period. If you have the time I just want to know what you think. Can you contradict my economic pressures and other factors of law change? Well, we can look at one issue in crime by the complexion of its commiters. About 90% Male around 50-55% black. This could give us a clue as who would be best aborted….Allow easier and incentive for women considering abortions for males, and discourage female fetus abortion (Even put quota and rationing “one girl per girl”) (have more forms to be completed and have a “keep your baby girl counceling session) . Males could be allowed to be aborted later term and state could give the “young lady in trouble” a 40$ travel voucher for males. Black Males would be even more encouraged. In fact tuition for the first semester in the institution of choise paid by the state if you abort your black male fetus.

    IT’s late I am being obscene and Stupid forgive me.

    Whadduya think??/////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////The Variable Jungle?/////cutting away the useless brush and vine in 7 easy lessons??

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  63. Jonathan Schwartz says:

    Prostitute versus architect salary:

    I just got to the point in your book where you claim that prostitutes make more than architects because of the compensating differentials and the demand for their services. The passage came right after you debunked the misconception that crack-dealers make so much money. I do not have data on the average salary of a prostittute or the average salary of an architect but I would guess that the architect makes more. I think that prostitutes are probably subject to the same plight as the foot soldier crack dealer and the McDonald’s employee whereby they do the ‘grunt’ work but someone else is making all the money.

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  64. Shauna says:

    “let the OB/GYNs do their jobs.” Bryan says above. What a pity our culture has gotten to the point where we feel that the job of the doctor is to end life. How about promoting the responsible use of birth control? How about promoting parents actually spending some time with their kids and raising them instead of whatever else they’re doing? How about telling people that we actually value people from the time that they are young until the time they are old, and that criminal acts against people of any age are horrible travesties, not something to be glorified in movies, video games, tv, etc.

    You know, I really don’t give a hoot about whether your freakonomic theory suggests that the crime rate has been lowered by abortion or not. I remember my stat teacher relating a yarn about the woman who won horse races depending on her basal body temperature for the day too. Next you will tell us that there will be less crime against seniors if there is legal euthanasia because there will be less seniors to commit crimes against.

    Abortion IS a crime, except in the most limited of circumstances. Yes, probably some criminals were not born, but if you look at the fact that a lot of boomers are now going to reach retirement on the shoulders of far fewer busters and gen Xers etc. because of abortion, and also that some very brilliant people may not have been born as well, abortion is playing God. And we are not smart enough to be God.

    The fact that we have made it okay to get rid of the very weakest members of society for our convenience tells people that people in general are not very valuable and crime really isn’t very important at all.

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  65. Bryan says:

    I dont know if you are anti gun or not. I am very pro gun. The study that shows states with increased concealed carry rights have lower crime rates work just as well.

    Lets face it. The only way to end most crime is to completely end poverty.

    I escaped poverty the only way I had at the time. I joined the military after losing my academic scholarship.

    I have been in 8 years. Am I a patriotic chest thumper? Hell no. Do I believe abortion should be unrestricted? yes. let the OB/GYNs do their jobs.

    Do I believe that guns should be restricted? With the exception of the GCA of 1968 and the NFA of 1934, I dont think we need more laws. Just more enforcement. I also dont think we should have to have special permits to carry firearms on our person, provided they arent concealed.

    Anyway, great article, enough of my ranting.

    SPC Trim OUt.

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  66. porchwise says:

    I don’t think deadman understood your analogy otherwise he would have thrown smog into your analogy. Anyway, I think your essay was well put. Now, WHERE is the blog on your interview with O’Reily. And did this particular subject come up? I can imagine he’d answer this with spin/spun/spin/spun etc.

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  67. Jacob says:

    Is this is the same John Lott who-sotto voce-smeared you by calling you “rabidly antigun” and then continued to attack you in his book?

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  68. Thomas says:

    When abortion is outlawed, what will social conservatives say when kids who may have been aborted get into Harvard instead of their kid?

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  69. The Real ME says:

    Crime goes in waves just like everything else in this country. I think it is impossiable to say 1 or even 2 social issues were the cause of a increase or decrease in crime. It’s so many factors. For example all accross the country crime increases during the summer, it is certainly more factors than just the heat.

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  70. porchwise says:

    I don't think deadman understood your analogy otherwise he would have thrown smog into your analogy. Anyway, I think your essay was well put. Now, WHERE is the blog on your interview with O'Reily. And did this particular subject come up? I can imagine he'd answer this with spin/spun/spin/spun etc.

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  71. Thomas says:

    When abortion is outlawed, what will social conservatives say when kids who may have been aborted get into Harvard instead of their kid?

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  72. The Real ME says:

    Crime goes in waves just like everything else in this country. I think it is impossiable to say 1 or even 2 social issues were the cause of a increase or decrease in crime. It's so many factors. For example all accross the country crime increases during the summer, it is certainly more factors than just the heat.

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  73. Bryan says:

    I dont know if you are anti gun or not. I am very pro gun. The study that shows states with increased concealed carry rights have lower crime rates work just as well.Lets face it. The only way to end most crime is to completely end poverty.I escaped poverty the only way I had at the time. I joined the military after losing my academic scholarship. I have been in 8 years. Am I a patriotic chest thumper? Hell no. Do I believe abortion should be unrestricted? yes. let the OB/GYNs do their jobs.Do I believe that guns should be restricted? With the exception of the GCA of 1968 and the NFA of 1934, I dont think we need more laws. Just more enforcement. I also dont think we should have to have special permits to carry firearms on our person, provided they arent concealed. Anyway, great article, enough of my ranting.SPC Trim OUt.

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  74. Shauna says:

    "let the OB/GYNs do their jobs." Bryan says above. What a pity our culture has gotten to the point where we feel that the job of the doctor is to end life. How about promoting the responsible use of birth control? How about promoting parents actually spending some time with their kids and raising them instead of whatever else they're doing? How about telling people that we actually value people from the time that they are young until the time they are old, and that criminal acts against people of any age are horrible travesties, not something to be glorified in movies, video games, tv, etc. You know, I really don't give a hoot about whether your freakonomic theory suggests that the crime rate has been lowered by abortion or not. I remember my stat teacher relating a yarn about the woman who won horse races depending on her basal body temperature for the day too. Next you will tell us that there will be less crime against seniors if there is legal euthanasia because there will be less seniors to commit crimes against. Abortion IS a crime, except in the most limited of circumstances. Yes, probably some criminals were not born, but if you look at the fact that a lot of boomers are now going to reach retirement on the shoulders of far fewer busters and gen Xers etc. because of abortion, and also that some very brilliant people may not have been born as well, abortion is playing God. And we are not smart enough to be God.The fact that we have made it okay to get rid of the very weakest members of society for our convenience tells people that people in general are not very valuable and crime really isn't very important at all.

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  75. Jonathan Schwartz says:

    Prostitute versus architect salary:I just got to the point in your book where you claim that prostitutes make more than architects because of the compensating differentials and the demand for their services. The passage came right after you debunked the misconception that crack-dealers make so much money. I do not have data on the average salary of a prostittute or the average salary of an architect but I would guess that the architect makes more. I think that prostitutes are probably subject to the same plight as the foot soldier crack dealer and the McDonald's employee whereby they do the 'grunt' work but someone else is making all the money.

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  76. deadman says:

    I am writing back because I was curious to see if you had any interest in the idea I touted earlier, Mr. Levitt. That despite random variation shifts by minor variables such as in your El nino analogy:.. I am discussing the same analogy, except the Idea that one impacting variable of minor, therefore, extractable from the equation,… Is an example of what I am asking::: IS IT possible to extract all the noise??? And point out that it is indeed noise. You point to how the crack problem is extractable as noise and find data as to why. Fine…What I am suggesting is how is it possible to suggest that such an issue of the Crack problem that should Damage the sturdy model but fits as extractable noise. While I contend there is so much more noise to extract!!… Arno Penzias When working at Bell labs was trying to extract noise from a freqency of Microwaves with a new antenna Described by George Gamow years before in a paper He stated : Such an antenna will easily detect microwave background radiation from the birth of the universe.. The big bang. Although penzias and his collegue (whose name I can't recall) won the Nobel prize in Physics.. At the time they didn't know what it was or even what they'ed found. Why is this so hard to say? People can look at data and say oh this is a real factor "check it out"!! Others may have not a clue. Working out all these variables (even knowing they exist) is difficult in hard Science. I just don't see how with so many other variables why it even matters if we disover that Crack was not a factor…The line is long. Besides there is still the argument that you cannot prove what you prevent. If you stop something from happening, Yet the trail to its absence is fraught with multitudes of other behaviors and incidents, conditions, Changes in Mores over 30 years. The only point that is worth considering is how closely will every value properly weighted for these upteen other factors; follows state implementation and adoption as policy….. How closely the changes in crime rate follow the trend in every state individually as more abortions were done in percapita stats as the changes were implemented more slowly in some areas and quicker in others. How well does this multiweighted variable mesh with the thesis: Abortion lowered the crime rate on a continuous descent over the 1992 to approx.2002 period. If you have the time I just want to know what you think. Can you contradict my economic pressures and other factors of law change? Well, we can look at one issue in crime by the complexion of its commiters. About 90% Male around 50-55% black. This could give us a clue as who would be best aborted….Allow easier and incentive for women considering abortions for males, and discourage female fetus abortion (Even put quota and rationing "one girl per girl") (have more forms to be completed and have a "keep your baby girl counceling session) . Males could be allowed to be aborted later term and state could give the "young lady in trouble" a 40$ travel voucher for males. Black Males would be even more encouraged. In fact tuition for the first semester in the institution of choise paid by the state if you abort your black male fetus.IT's late I am being obscene and Stupid forgive me. Whadduya think??/////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////The Variable Jungle?/////cutting away the useless brush and vine in 7 easy lessons??

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  77. Jake says:

    I just wanted to say that you are the man.

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  78. Anonymous says:

    The person who wrote that concealed weapons laws reduced crime was John Lott. To see a paper challenging Lott's position, see Duggan (JPE) or a more recent working paper by Phillips (NBER, 2005)As for abortion. Has anyone done this study for England?

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  79. Anonymous says:

    I have 3 statistical questions regarding the Abortion Regression.(1) You say in the book that preganancies rose 30% post Roe v. Wade, but births declined 6%. Implying that Abortion is replacing other forms of Birth Control to a large extent. So states with High v. Low abortion rates may not be relevant. A state with a 36% abortion rate could be roughly equivalent to a state with a 6% abortion rate if they did not see the +30% increase. Should you look at (normalized) birth rates not abortions?(2) How are you measuring Crack in the regression? You say in the book that it isn't users it is dealers who commit the crimes. Therfore the relevant measure should not be useage but marginal gain for marginal turf gain. The crash in price is relevant not the level of use.(3) The logic of your paper argues that unwantedness leads to crime. The proxy for this in the bast is children in poverty and single-parent households. I would suggest using a variable for births into poverty and births to unmarried mothers as variables in your regression, so that you can isolate the degree of unwantedness attributeable to abortions. One of Sailer's key criticisms is that post roe v wade abortions possibly led to higher rates of "illegitimacy". So why not include that as a variable? Thanks,Jeff

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  80. Anonymous says:

    Sorry for some of the misspellings above. "bast" was supposed to be "past". The other misspellings get the meaning accross.

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  81. deadman says:

    Anonymous #12 named Jeff makes my point exactly he has noticed more varibles I didn't mention. There are people on here, who, if they thought on it, could come up with 10 more challenging variables that have to be accounted for as well. So, What do you think Mr. Levitt?? How reasonable is it to do microanalysis on macro-range issues in Economics? Me again.

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  82. Catharine says:

    To "the real me" — actually, crime doesn't just "go in waves". Crime is a sociological phenomenon that follows distinct patterns based on historical and cultural influences that can be quantified and measure. To read the entire essay, then shrug and say, "Aw, crime just goes in waves and can't really be attributed to any one thing," is just to ignore factual data. This decision that we've made to simply ignore statistical and scientific data in favor of the "it's all too complex to explain with numbers (or fossils or carbon dating)" is starting to get on my very last nerve.A big reason crime goes up in the summertime is — surprise! — the heat. Ask any law enforcement officer. Is it the only thing? Probably not. But if you take into account that, as the weather warms, criminals and potential victims are outside more and in closer proximity, then it can be reasonably assumed that heat makes for more opportunity for crime. Add to that that extreme heat tends to make people cranky and unpleasant, and the possiblities for crime between non-criminals who simply lose their tempers rises as well. So, yeah. It's simply not logical to dismiss statistical data with a wave of your hand and the statement, "Well, there are many factors at work here. Who can say?" Statisticians can. Scientists can. Sociologists and anthropologists can. And with reasonably accurate precision.~C~

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  83. deadman says:

    catherine no one (I think) is "dismissing" factors that do actually affect different sociological trends. What is being done is to look very hard at how many factors do the effect, and how much and how accurately we can say a factor is causal, and with what presicion…And then to determine how much certainty is unchallengeably real. If it can be truely determined (what ever that factor might be and in whatever trend it applies)Then….The remaining question is: what do we do with it? Is it something we can only put on the shelf to continue working toward a greater level of pure validity? Is is a large, almost rock solid icon… almost law…that can be used as an element of policy formation with no peripheral chance of damage in what ever form in "human hurt"?? Maybe we do find a real component of sociological impact. Is it so well studied, that if we know all of its ramifications, if we try to make use of the data we can predict the outcome? This is what has to be closely examined. Unfortunately this type of Social architectual attempt at using this sort of data is just dangerous. We have well learned the dangers of assumptions in areas of sciences much harder than the social ones. Even damage due to well established science so solid it produces technologies that have been long embraced,.. we loosed into the population only to find after decades that there were undiscovered factors that produced damage that could not be reversed. Damage so old that no suits could be filed because no one could be said to have ever known or even imagined the possibility. Look at Estrogen Replacement Therapy practiced for decades. Only to discover that not only was it not helpful to heart bone breast and uterus, even the brain. It was for some women damaging. My own mother with no history except for one case of cancer (not breast)in her whole family after a histerectomy at age 36 loses one breast at age 65. Then the other at age 70. She is a survivor thankfully….. But similarly I can in no way say for certain that that treatment was the cause. One single anecdotal case. But, no woman will have the same treatment at age 36 today. Why? because of the very risk of such a possible outcome. She is 76 today. Even hard Sciences bring in social factors such as television, radio, cellphone, internet, video, cable, microwaves, Automobiles, and on one could list, Yet we still don't know what all of this means. Nor can we measure all the impacts and their intereciprocitous sythesis of change to positive and negative in what ever direction they move our minds and lives. Call me a luddite; …But we won't know what impacts all of these changes have evidenced into our lives until we know. Many we never will. Many will be left to be discovered by centuries to come. We have been on the face of this amazing planet for only a short, short time. We need to be very careful about the introduction of information with out judicious qualification of our findings. Very Judicious….Stephen

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  84. Anonymous says:

    Yep, bet if we rounded up a large population of disadvantaged toddlers and killed them we'd see a big drop in crime as well-doesn't mean it's a good idea. Proof of the idea that abortion is the genocide of poor black people-no wonder the elite in this country are so gung ho about it.

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  85. dustinsh says:

    If you actually read the book, I think levitt makes a very strong moral and economic arguement against abortion despite the initial knee jerk reaction to his findings. Levitt should be comended for his willingness to report the truth, no matter how disturbing some people may find it.

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  86. It seems deadman, that you are not arguing against Levitt's hypothesis so much as you are arguing against statistics itself. Yes, we are all familiar with the fact that correlation does not prove causation. This is old news. The fact is that if after controlling for all the variables you can think of (as any decent economist would) you find that two things are still related (abortion and crime) then you have to accept what the evidence shows as being science's best guess. Throwing your hands up in the air and explaining "well, everything's a theory" when some scientific fact is inconvenient (be it evolution or this) is scientific relativism of the worst sort.

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  87. samatha H. says:

    Some people have said that Levitt's abortion/crime rate theory is racist, but I fail to see how this is. People of other races, ethnic groups, etc, commit crimes as well. If anything it is biased against the lower socieconomic classes, but I will not get into that. I don't recall who said something along the lines of "ending poverty will end crime". This is not true for human nature will always tempt people to cheat or steal to better themselves or those they love. I agree that there are many factors that influence crime besides abortion. Perhaps, ensuring that all children get good educations and have activities to get or keep them off the streets than they will be less likely to engage in crime. People who have hope don't join gangs.

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  88. RK says:

    I'll say this, your post is causing quite a controversy, BUT nothing like this blog:whowilldietoday.blogspot.com

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  89. herb says:

    I really enjoyed the erudition of your piece. Reactionary arguments have to be illogical. Reactionaries don't want to listen to anything or anybody because it would impugn impunity to bow before mere evidence. It is a mental disease, really. And apparently a contagious one that we will all die of regardless of whether we contract it or not.herb

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  90. Peter says:

    Steve Sailer also has suggested that the lower-income women most likely to get abortions are the ones who have some degree of responsibility and ambition. The truly hopeless ones are less likely to get abortions; either they want a child despite lacking the resources to care for one, or they are too irresponsible to get themselves to abortion clinics. He posits that the down-and-out women in the latter category are the ones whose children are most likely to become criminals.Do you believe this is true, and if so how does it affect the abortion-cuts-crime theory?

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  91. Anonymous says:

    This whole series of posts convinces me even more that, applied to social issues, statistics do not and can not "prove" anything. Like raw steel, statistical data can be ground and pounded into one's blade of choice, to do with as one wants, with more or less skill than the opponent who has access to the same raw steel. The great liberal triumph of the past half century has been to pull off the incredible sleight of hand that has turned statistical data into empirical "fact," and statisticians into social commentators. With a liberal press (by and large) hungry for anything that will sell media, the result has been a classic co-dependent relationship. Statisticians, in some unfortunate circles, have become like demigods. And, of course, in the liberal political world, statistics have become the ultimate weapon for liberal policy making.In the case of abortion, statistics do not prove anything, but rather just give the pols something to sharpen the edges of their social swords so they can appear to be correct, when in fact they just want to have the upper hand from a good statistical sound bite. The problem is, we all know too many statistical claims that have been taken as "fact" for decades, and have influenced social policy, even though later proved untrue. How? Simply because they were quoted and requoted. It's no coincidence we use the term "social engineering." Engineers use data however they think best to achieve a desired end in the most effective and efficient way possible. Statisticians can do the same, and we call them social engineers. No amount of statistical manipulation or interpretation can justify abortion. Whether or not you agree that it is morally wrong to kill a child in utero, it is unquestionably morally wrong to conclude that abortion is "good" or justifiable based on arguable statistical data and biased interpretations (like politicians, no statistician is unbiased). Statistics are certainly useful for marketing, insurance, surveys, and measurable testing, but not for social engineering. Leave that to people with moral convictions who will do what is right, not just what is statistically appealing. Moral strength does not need a flashy sword to prove its point. Lesser men (and women) rely on the glint of their statistical steel, rather than the steel of moral strength. Statistical swords can seriously harm too many innocent people once the steel starts flying. We all know the bloody swath in history that kind of thinking has left.

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  92. Paul says:

    Can the people who are preaching that abortion is wrong please borrow a copy of the book and spend 10 minutes reading the chapter? Levitt does not believe abortion is good or bad or right or wrong. He didn't start looking at how to make abortion more attractive by finding some hidden benefits. He was simply trying to explain why CRIME fell, and NOT some heretofor undiscovered benefit of abortion. Again, spend ten minutes and read the chapter before going on a diatribe about the morality of it, because it's clearly explained in the pages what the point of the research was.As for people who think statistics can be used to show anything, if you can show me how, I'd love to learn from you.

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  93. Steve Sailer says:

    This is Steve Sailer:My overall view is that it is beyond the capabilities of contemporary social science to answer definitively the question of how abortion affected crime. Having looked at the data over the last six years, it appears to me that there is about as much evidence that legalizing abortion drove the violent crime rate up, especially in the 1987-1994 era when serious violence among 14-17 year olds hit an all time high, as that it drove the violent crime rate down. I'd like to address two crucial issues: exactly what is Dr. Levitt claiming and upon whom should rest the burden of proof.I addressed "ceteris paribus" (or "all else being equal") in my Slate.com debate in 1999 with Dr. Levitt. After noting that the murder rate went up apocalyptically among in late 1980s and early 1990s among the very group that had the most abortions in the 1970s: 14-17 year old blacks, I noted:"Admittedly, it's still theoretically possible that without abortion the black youth murder rate would have, say, sextupled instead of merely quintupling [from 1984 to 1993]." — <a href="http://slate.msn.com/id/33569/entry/33571/http://slate.msn.com/id/33569/entry/33571/<br />Logically, this is what Dr. Levitt must be arguing over these last six years. But you can instantly see why he never makes clear his case. There's two problems: the first is that saying this instantly raises the question of why Levitt refuses to investigate the at least equally interesting question of whether legalizing abortion first drove crime up. As I wrote then:"Still, there's a more interesting question: Why did the places with the highest abortion rates in the '70s (e.g., NYC and Washington D.C.) tend to suffer the worst crack-driven youth crime waves in the early '90s?"As Dr. Levitt notes today: "The homicide rate of young males (especially young Black males) temporarily skyrocketed in the late 1980s, especially in urban centers like Los Angeles, New York City, and Washington, DC." But, of course, abortion was legalized in Los Angeles and New York in 1970, three years before Roe v. Wade, and it was largely de facto legal in Washington D.C. from the same point. Funny, isn't it, how the crack wars got started exactly in those big cities where legal abortion got started?Obviously, in the sciences the longer the lag, the less truthworthy the assertion of causal correlation. Yet, Dr. Levitt seems to put more faith in longer lags. What we see from looking at the FBI statistics is that serious violent crime shot up among those most affected by legalized abortion: 14-17 year olds in early legalizing metropolises.Dr. Levitt, however, doesn't want us to think about that correlation. He long ago decided that we should only wonder about the hidden reasons why crime went down _later_. As for the hidden reasons why violent crime went up _earlier_ and earlier in some places than others, well, who needs to look in depth? All we need to know is Crack! The other reason why Dr. Levitt has not been forthcoming about what he is really saying is the obvious dubiousness of what Dr. Levitt is claiming: He is implying that: Although my theory fails its single best test case in catastrophic fashion, I can still separate out the very subtle breeze of the effects of legalizing abortion from the hurricane of other simultaneous events, such as the rise and fall of the crack wars, vast increases in imprisonment, the deaths by murder and AIDS of huge numbers of criminals, changes in police tactics, the decline in the abortion rate from 1992 onward, changes in the economy, increased sales of guns to law-abiding citizens, increased number of cops, the rise of rent-a-cops, the spread of alarms and video cameras, the rise of marijuana among the urban underclass, the spread of Depo-Provera contraceptive shots, etcetera etcetera…Well, good luck…And that brings us to the question of the burden of proof. Upon whom should it rest: Dr. Levitt or me? Dr. Levitt is a sympathetic figure, perhaps a heroic one, considering the difficulty of the analytical burden he has undertaken. I am a less appealing figure: the scoffer, the sniper, the naysayer. I do not offer a complete model of the causes of crime trends as Dr. Levitt claims to do. Nor do I feel competent to undertake one. I am merely poking holes in his big theory.Yet, it's a wise maxim in the sciences that large assertions require large evidence. Levitt's abortion-cut-crime theory is one of the bigger social science assertions of recent times. The weight of the evidence, however, falls far short of the weight of the importance of his claim. So, by all traditions of science, the burden of proof lies upon him, and he has failed to meet it.

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  94. Steve Sailer says:

    This is Steve Sailer:You can find much more analysis, graphs, and data on the abortion-crime hypothesis at http:/www.iSteve.com/abortion.htm

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  95. Steve Sailer says:

    This is Steve Sailer:You can find my response to the first half of Dr. Levitt's posting at http :www.iSteve.com/abortion.htm

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  96. Anonymous says:

    Would that all who put their faith in statistics could see how arcane and absurd this entire series of posts sounds to the average, and even intelligent, person (for the record, I have a post-graduate degree). There's no question in my mind that statistics is the systematic theology of secularism. Think about it. Systematic theologians (look up that term if you don't know what it means) all use the same source material, the Bible, but they all come up with wholly different ideas of how to approach and interpret that material, which leads to different views of what is "true." When preached, those views affect real lives and decisions. This whole discussion reminds me of some theological discussions. In the end, it's not the source material that makes the difference, but the presuppositions that you bring to interpreting that material. It's not so much about putting your faith in what you believe, but about believing what you have already put your faith in. Frankly, I have little faith in statistics applied to social issues. And if you really believe statistics is an "exact science" then your faith is misplaced. Get a real life!

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  97. centuri0n says:

    OK: I bought Freakonomics, and I read the whole thing, and, since I'm commenting on this post in particular, you can imagine that the chapter on abortion and the crime rate was the one that has left me somewhat agitated.Let me say this first: whether you "agree with" (which is to say, "have no objections to") the semi-eugenic conclusion that abortion leads to lower crime rates or you "disagree with" (which is to say, "have an agenda which makes the conclusion unthinkable", and I place myself in this second group), the argument reads like apocalyptic science fiction, and it has got to give you a sick feeling in your stomach. Does no one else really see the parallel between this theory/conclusion and Swift's "A Modest Proposal"?I wish I was able to make the case that this is an incidence of corollation and not causation, but when 80% of the abortions in the last 30 years were by single women, and more than 50% of all abortions were had by women under the age of 25, 2/3rds of all women having abortions say they cannot afford to have a child, and half say they do not want to raise a child as a single parent or in a troubled home, there's not much left to say. (those are the AGI stats)I wonder why the abortion rate hasn't also impacted the unemployment rate?

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  98. Anonymous says:

    "I wonder why the abortion rate hasn't also impacted the unemployment rate?"Why should it?

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  99. Hatcher says:

    I have long been familiar with the abortion = less violent crime down the line argument, which is an interesting idea and all, but who really cares? Can such an argument be used as a justification for abortion? "Down the line, we're gonna have to give 'em the electric chair anyway, so we might as well stick a pair of scissors into the back of the head of a partially delivered baby and save at least the life he would otherwise take (assuming of course its a he)." Even NARAL would shudder to make that argument, you would think.

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  100. Anonymous says:

    who really cares?There are good reasons to care that have absolutely nothing to do with how one feels about abortion. As the book points out, the drop in crime has been attributed to lots of causes – more police, software, "broken windows," etc. Wouldn't it be nice to know if any of those things matter? If we want to reduce crime shouldn't we try to find out what strategies actually do that, as opposed to what just sounds good. This is not to argue that abortion should be legal because it lowers crime. It is to argue that, if legal abortion is in fact the cause of the crime drop, then some of these other ideas are overrated, and we should look elsewhere for crime prevention strategies.

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  101. It may be that statistics is not an exact science and that it cannot answer the truly important questions in life. Nevertheless, I am sure that some of those posters who claim that statistics can be made to say anything use prescription drugs, drugs that were proven "safe" using …oh, I don't know, magic? Did Merck kill a cow and poke around in the innards when it ran all those tests? Of course, there are bad stats and there are good stats. The problem is figuring out which is which. Maybe some things really cannot be measured, but it is hard to know if we do not try. Regarding the abortion-lowers-crime idea, people should really just read the book (or the original paper, which is on Levitt's website and is free) and see for themselves that Levitt is not advocating eugenics or killing poor or minority babies or anything like that. He is simply trying to find a relationship between the fall in crime and abortion. After all, it may be that totalitarian dictatoships are correlated with low rates of rape. That does not mean that such a system of government is desirable,only that such a relationship exists. PS Joel Best has a pair of fun and easy to read books about the use and abuse of statistics in social debates. The are on Amazon.PSS I am not Joel Best, so I get no money for mentioning his books.

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  102. Anonymous says:

    Right on, leslie

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  103. Shauna says:

    What makes you think I am sitting on my ass? I was a foster parent for years to abused children. I am a child advocate in many ways, I am the vice president of one PTA, and the incoming president another. The PTA is a wonderful organization that was actually formed to advocate for children. We came into existence to take children out of forced labor in sweatshops in the beginning of the 20th century, and to also provide them with lunches in schools. PTA is also responsible for this countries' program of child immunization. I and my family volunteer many hours per month working on just the issues we are writing about here. I write letters, attend local school board meetings and city hall meetings attempting to get more funds for education locally, and for social services reform. I and my family volunteer in the community with church and secular organizations on a regular basis. Each person cannot save the whole world, but they can try to make their own little piece of it better.Now just what are you doing, besides whining on this blog? Have you taken a moment to get involved in any of these peoples' lives, or is your answer to just extinguish the lives of kids who come from poor families. Maybe if you idealists out there took a minute out of your busy schedules to stop shaking your collective fingers at others and "each one reach one" this world would actually become a better place. It takes actual human contact to have an effect on people. And yes, I am actualy doing that, not just sitting on my ass. You picked the wrong person to make an assumption about. Further, I myself had a pretty poor life growing up. That being said, I wouldn't take too kindly to any of you being in charge of making the decision that I would have been better off not being born because I was going to have a rotten life. That is not for you to decide. We are not all promised health and prosperity. We are only given life. No one promises any of us that we will get a fair shake. Would you who think that poor abused kids would be better off aborted then choose to abort all kids from Calcutta, Port Au Prince, Haiti, and Sri Lanka, I think not! Why should you abort American kids because they will in your opinion have a poor life. Think about it. And yes, abortion is a crime against at least one person, if not society as a whole.Shauna http://www.furthernotice.blogspot.com

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  104. Shauna says:

    Forgot to mention that I know many other people who don't believe abortion is the answer who are also working on the problem as well. I am not alone. There is an old saying: 2 wrongs don't make a right. Don't combat the evil of poverty and ignorance with the evil of abortion. It only devalues people. Education, strong families and birth control yes, abortion, no.

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  105. Vince S says:

    I am no fan of abortion. I come from a very conservative family. However, it stands to reason here in Chicago where low income women have abortions that if you grow up in the projects, you get pregnant and decide to raise your child, there's a better than average chance that the child will not only be exposed to a lot of criminal behavior but possibly take part in it as an adolescent or young adult. The chances are that in those cases abortion reduces crime. Are we to assume that every unborn child that was aborted and that was from the projects would have grown up to be a wonderful, gainfully employed adult???

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  106. Shauna says:

    "Are we to assume that every unborn child that was aborted and that was from the projects would have grown up to be a wonderful, gainfully employed adult???"First, There is not enough evidence to prove that abortion reduces the crime rate. Second, of course not! You can't even assume that kids from suburbia will do that. Are you trying to to say that no one's life who comes from poverty will be one of value? Someone above made the point that the people who have abortions are those who have the gumption, money and resources to have them, not the poorest of the poor, anyway. Shauna http://www.furthernotice.blogspot.com

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  107. George B says:
    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  108. Jim Voigt says:

    Leslie,I find it amazing that you take issue with people that think abortion is a crime on the basis that you wish these abusive parents would have had abortions. While your desire to protect children from abuse is admirable, your total failure to consider alternatives is deplorable. What if, instead of an abortion, these mothers had not conceived a child in the first place?Here's a nice little corellation for you: If you ave sex you are likely to get pregnant. If you get pregnant you are likely to give birth to a child. If you give birth to a child, you will be that child's parent.So your solution to this string of events is to end the life of the child after it's created as opposed to simply never creating it in thr first place.Of course, my approach would have that nasty sting of holding future parents accountable for their decision to have sex. We can't have that in the "government holds my hand" inner city / transitional neighborhood.Time and time again government steps in after someone has made a poor life decision and helps clean up the mess. The more a person is isolated from the bad consequences of their poor life decisions, the more poor life decisions they will make.

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  109. William Lee says:

    I consider myself pro-choice but do not think that abortion should be taken lightly.The theory put forth in "Freakenomics" might have its heart in the right place in trying emphasize the ideal that children should be wanted but the argument is way too simplistic. Aspointe out by almost every other posted comment, there are way too many other variables involved to say that legalized abortion alone resulted in a lower crime rate. One could argue forever about which combination of social and econmic forces causes a change in the crime rate at any given time and the point is not to say that you have reached a final conclusion at any time but to keep a constant dialogue open. This theory does nothing to further that type of constructive dialogue.

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  110. Of course, the question is "who cares?" If it were shown, as some have suggested, that abortion wildly increased rates of child abuse and infanticide, would it mean that we had to ban abortion? I think few advocates of abortion would draw that connection.This is something akin to arguing that the national policy on emancipation and slavery should be driven by the economic benefits to be derived from one or the other. It's a distraction from the real issue: either the mother has a right to get an abortion, or the fetus has a right not to be aborted.If statistics and crime are the driving force behind abortion policy, and not the question of liberty, then we could cut to the chase and REALLY let statistics and demographics run the show. As with the Eugenicists of the early 1900s, we could look at studies to determine which people are most likely to have kids that are criminal or welfare recipients – usually the poor, minorities, immigrant and single-mother families. Rather than hoping these people would choose to abort, we could (through targeted, mandatory abortion) glean out many or all of them from having kids until they bumped themselves into statistically better brackets (higher earnings, got married, different neighborhood, different state, etc.) and became less of a statistical risk.I think there's a big mistake in putting more than casual-academic weight in actuarial thinking.Additionally, I can't really buy into this argument that it reduces crime without hearing a real reason. That reason would almost invariably be either meaningless words ("wanted" children) or something offensively related to the parents status as unmarried, racial minorities, immigrants or poor (and so unlikely to be made by anybody outside of Stormfront).Until somebody explains to me more in depth why the aborted fetuses in question were more likely to become criminals, I have little reason to buy into the statistical argument. It makes it look like coincidence or model shortcomings.

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  111. centuri0n says:

    Anonymous said… "I wonder why the abortion rate hasn't also impacted the unemployment rate?"Why should it? Because people who are violent criminals can't hold down day jobs. The personality traits for being a violent felon are pretty good indicators that one will be unemployed.If the people who would have been violent felons were simply aborted, the places they would have held in the employment cycle would also have been eliminated — thus, fewer unemployed.Is it possible that the Clinton Era's economic boon was actually a function of the legalization of abortion?

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  112. Catharine says:

    Tommaso Sciortino wrote: "Throwing your hands up in the air and explaining "well, everything's a theory" when some scientific fact is inconvenient (be it evolution or this) is scientific relativism of the worst sort."Thank you. You said it much better than I did in my previous post. ~C~

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  113. Anonymous says:

    I can speak from personal experience on this one, as I was an unwanted child. I know because again and again I was told so. I was told that I should not expect much from my (single) mother, as I should be happy to simply be alive, 'not aborted' as she put it. I grew up an avid reader with a strong interest in science. -My mother hid the fact that she was an unwed mother.. (I now understand why she did this..) She even lied to me.. about important things..I remember vividly hearing a commercial on the radio when I was around nine or ten admonishing kids to stay in school and go to college. Realizing that my dream of becoming a scientist would be impossible without a college degree, I begged my mother to help, no 'you are so smart you don't need to go to college'… Anyway.. you can guess the rest.. I was never able to finish college.. dropping out three times because of money.. I struggled trying to pay back my student loans for over fifteen years.. You don't make much without a degree, nomatter how smart you are.. During the Internet boom, for a while, I did fairly well.. now I'm just getting by…For a while my lack of a degree didnt matter… It does now, again.. YES, THIS THEORY IS CLEARLY RIGHT.. at least to me.. And I should know.. I haven't told a tenth of it…Nonmarital children are treated like dirt.. We are often killed by people.. (and I don't mean abortion..I mean killed..) Think about it..Its genocide…Women should not be forced to have children.. They take it out on them.. Adoption is a multimillion dollar industry that steals babies from poor women and sells them to rich women.. That is what is really driving this debate.. the supply of white (yes, its also a race issue) is drying up.. (no, I'm not black, I'm white) Class does matter.. Read the series this week in the New York Times. We need to wake up from the American *dream* and invest more in America and Americans.. instead of grandiose fantasies…

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  114. Anonymous says:

    There are lots of other factors that matter too.. Environmental pollutants are causing major health problems for lots of people.. Plasticizers in our environment are causing children to enter puberty earlier, as well as neurological problems..autism, asbergers. Contaminants in the water table are impossible to filter out, again, they may cause neurogical, hormonal or eventual cancer problems.. The right would like to eliminate corporate liability and make it a matter of personal choice.. You can pay more, and get clean water, or get the polluted water out of your tap…You can make a lifestyle choice to live in the polluted town, with the other poor people, or work hard, get into a good school, etc. (even if you went to a high school that didn't measure up?) Didn't get in? Well, you must be an inferior cretin.. Accepted to Yale? well, you are 'leader material' Get the picture? We are throwing our future away so that the George Bushs of the world can look good – when they don't deserve it…All I can say is a country that is so obstinately wasting its lives and steering itself down a path to decline may deserve it..Maybe the world is a meritocracy in that sense… But isn't it sad.. And avoidable..But not exactly the way the holier-than-thou would have you believe it…

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  115. Jules Siegel says:

    I don't buy the abortion reduced crime theory because there are too many other equally (un)believable explanations, but let's accept it for the moment. This then leads to a question that I don't believe I've seen raised. If unwanted children are more likely to become criminals than wanted children, what are we doing to make sure that more children are wanted rather than aborted?I'm neither pro- or anti-abortion. I believe that any abortion is a tragic event, but an individual decision that the state should not make a crime. The anti-abortion crowd stands for right-to-life from conception to birth. After that, they easily switch from their usual creationism (oops — intelligent design) to the survival of the fittest.I think that abortion is just the cheapest solution to a problem that could be solved by more humane means, such as glorifying and rewarding motherhood and making it possible for women to have children and raise them without reference to economic considerations. You can't raise this idea without being accused of being anti-woman by the feminists, who also happen to be pro-choice.Levitt's theory is appealing from a media standpoint because the media (like the professoriate) are largely pro-choice. This gives them a sharp stick to plunge into the eye of the anti-abortion movement. It's also a very convenient smokescreen for avoiding the real reasons for crime — poverty, hopelessness, injustice and, most of important, the role of industrialism in reducing children to the status of unwanted vermin rather than humanity's hope for a better future.

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  116. Thomas says:

    Is it possible that legalized abortion cost John Kerry just enough votes in 2004 to lose the election?I would think that more of these poor, young, and unmarried women would be Democrats if they voted. And say their children would be Democrats if they voted as well.

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  117. Shine says:

    Aha, now I see how lucky I was. Yeah, I was lucky enough to make it to this world! When my mom was pregnant with me, having abortions weren't popular yet. Oh my God, I can't even think of my mother doing it to me. In fact, no loving mother would do it, unless there is a legitimate reason. I feel pity for all the teeny-weeny babies who don't make it to this world and die in silence. The only consoling fact is that the heaven won't be empty.Whatever the justification for abortion, don't you think you would have said "no" if you could speak up before you were being aborted?(I know those poor little human beings can't speak up, but that isn't enough to deny their right to live)

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  118. Anonymous says:

    I haven't heard yet the point that while abortion may be the cause for the decline in crime and murders in the 90's, that doesn't make it the best way to reduce crime. For instance, Iraq used to have very little crime when the ruthless Sadaam was in power. Dictatorships tend to do very well in controlling crime–but no one would recommend it. By the same token, all sides of the abortion issue could agree that it would be a morally better society if we had fewer abortions and deal with crime by providing the poor with the opportunity for advancement. Speaking of which, why didn't abortion cause a favorable shift in the distribution of income in the US? With fewer poor being born you would think 20 years later we would see fewer and fewer poor yet we are seeing more…..

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  119. Natasha says:

    deadman – Well, we can look at one issue in crime by the complexion of its commiters. About 90% Male around 50-55% black. This could give us a clue as who would be best aborted….Allow easier and incentive for women considering abortions for males, [...] Males could be allowed to be aborted later term and state could give the "young lady in trouble" a 40$ travel voucher for males. Black Males would be even more encouraged. In fact tuition for the first semester in the institution of choise paid by the state if you abort your black male fetus.IT's late I am being obscene and Stupid forgive me. Why should you be forgiven for being smugly ignorant and truly obscene?How's this: Self-reported rates of criminal offense as recorded by the National Youth Survey at the end of the 90s discovered that among young males, 42% admitted to criminal behavior. Overall, four white youths admitted to a crime for every five black youths. Even that small disparity is reduced when the groups are compared by income levels. The real difference isn't in the commission of crimes, but in arrest rates. Only one white youth was arrested over that survey period for every four black youths arrested. For drug offenses, it's even worse. Blacks make up around 12-13% of the US population, and around 13% of the drug using population, but they make up 62% incarcerated drug offenders.Don't point up some ridiculous strawman argument based on the systemic bigotry of the justice system and then 'cleverly' try to cop to just having taken a stupid flight of fancy.Steve Sailer – "Still, there's a more interesting question: Why did the places with the highest abortion rates in the '70s (e.g., NYC and Washington D.C.) tend to suffer the worst crack-driven youth crime waves in the early '90s?"In case you didn't read anything up above about the crime decreases being also seen in states that really weren't hit by the crack epidemic at all, these so-called crime rates (barring cases where an actual dead body shows up) were just as biased as I noted in response to the previous commentor.Even though, as with all other drugs, whites used crack far more than blacks ever did, blacks were far more likely to be arrested or jailed for it. Further, mandatory minimums and likelihood of prosecution go up for inexpensive crack cocaine, whereas powder cocaine which is a preferred drug of many wealthy white individuals isn't prosecuted for as frequently and has more lenient sentencing guidelines.Even today, whites buy, sell and use more drugs than blacks, which is hardly surprising. But blacks commit more crimes, which is to say that the police and legal system are much more likely to assume their guilt and send them to jail instead of rehab. A black youth has very little chance of getting a friendly warning from a police officer who knows the family and thinks they're a 'good kid' who'll straighten out in a couple years.So can it be coincidence that the two cities you mention have large minority populations and racist law enforcement, two preconditions guaranteed to increase reported rates of crime? I doubt it.And yes, you are rather unappealing, you racist pervert. It isn't because you're a persecuted truthsayer, it's because you're deeply revolting.occidental tourist – If we were to take these abortion arguments in the context of those over global warming, in line with this analogy, this would buttress the case of those who suggest that it we haven’t a clue of all the variables involved and that trying to tease a clear result in favor of a predominate influence for one variable is almost inevitably the result of subconsciously favoring that argument …Well, clearly *you* don't have a clue about all the variables involved in global warming, but to echo a commentor up-thread, there are people who do. Try reading … well, just about any scientific opinion written by a qualified climatologist not employed by people who profit from fossil fuels. The only disagreement they have at this point is how bad the warming will be and how fast it will occur. Some say it could happen slowly, others very fast. Even the Pentagon is writing up threat assessments based on different projected levels of warming.A major piece of the global warming puzzle fell into place recently when it became clear that the oceans have been absorbing much of the carbon dioxide that was 'missing' in atmospheric measurements as compared to climate models. The warming of the oceans is also indisputable, which will both reinforce the greenhouse effect by stabilizing global temperature upwards and decreasing its ability to absorb carbon dioxide, because water holds more dissolved gas when its cold.Anyone who doesn't have a motive to lie to you would also point out the retreat of glaciers on every continent and rapid polar melting of what has been permanent snowpack for thousands of years. This is going to contribute to rising sea levels and worldwide droughts, but it brings up a more basic point: Our ice is melting and you still don't believe that the Earth is getting warmer.It's easy to get, so toss it around for a while: Ice melting = temperature increasing. You can try it at home with your own ice that you made yourself if you don't trust the claims of tricky professional scientists with their wild assertions about molar heat capacity and the specific heat of water. If you had anything else useful to say, this denial of reality on your part shreds your credibility.Levitt – Interesting post, and my compliments on the rabidity of your trolls ;)

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  120. garry culhane says:

    If all the children which could be born in the next 10 years were instead aborted, would that be a good way to bring down the crime rate 20 years from now? Before there was "Roe v Wade" (which now sounds like some kind of pill) apparently abortion was much less widespread. So l guess "abortion" since then (but not before?) is something that became easy to measure. All the people who wanted that went to hospitals or clinics, so the event was reported in some way. Was that not done before this huge legal event? Was it the case that after the Roe thing people pretty well all moved over to doing a measurable event type abortion rather than rely on other things?Suppose a pill now comes out that could be taken by men or women that will cancel any possibility of pregnancy for the next year, and it is really safe, and it is super cheap, Will all people go to that instead of all other known methods? So now there will be no abortions at all. Will the crime rate start to go back up?When you think of it, does the rate of various crimes have anything to do with whether a child born 15 or 20 years ago was "wanted" or not. Are children born to families by accident or design yet when the birth comes thay are not really wanted? Does that figure into the stats? If abortion is a sort of convenient way to do late pregnancy control, how does that figure into the numbers of people who used to avoid sex in order to not be faced with that choice.When you check into what "crimes" go onto the police blotter, all kinds of odd variations are encountered, and it turns out that homicide is one of the few things you can be pretty sure of because all sorts of records and people get involved in reporting that.Just think of the reporting of sexual crimes, then and now.Of course we have all learned a little bit about this correlation business in the past period of intense statistical argument and regressions which computer programs produce so easily. But I have to wonder. I certainly do not know remotely enough to contend with the good Professor to whom we are indebted for his insights.But I just don't like what he is saying even if the numbers are right.Can I claim some rational basis in a sort of ethical nose, like they say you can smell the bad and dangerous stuff from the pulp mill down to parts per billion? I don't know that either. But in 71 years I have learned to beware of arguments that suit the elite. You see, they smell bad.

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  121. Anonymous says:

    Is this a really tricky concept:Whether or not you think abortion should be legal has nothing to do with whether or not legalizing abortion produced lower crime rates.And then from there to:Whether or not legalizing abortion produced lower crime rates might have something to do with whether or not you think abortion should be legal, but not necessarily.Is it really hard to keep these issues distinct? I guess it comes down to fear of what other people will think.

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  122. Anonymous says:

    this thread is SO hijacked.

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  123. Anonymous says:

    If the decrease in the crime rate in the 90's is really due to the increased availability of abortions in the 70's following Roe vs Wade, then those who are opposed to abortion should support greater efforts at providing sex education and increased availability of different forms of contraception to young women in order to prevent unwanted pregnancies from taking place that force these women to seek abortions.

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  124. I have found Contested Lives: The Abortion Debate in an American Community — by Faye D. Ginsburg to be very thought provoking.

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  125. Anonymous says:

    If a high birthrate among long income, single women is correlated with a high crime when these children grow up, then perhaps the baby boom after WWII can explain the high crime rate during the late 1960's.

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  126. Anonymous says:

    These guys are idiots. On one hand the "economist" says that aborting unwanted children lowered the crime rate. Then he says that the actions of a parent are irrelevant in determining the success of the child. Give me a break. I think he got his Phd from University of Phoenix Online.

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  127. Anonymous says:

    Do you have actual data and the numbers to back up your statements, or are you just spouting "conventional wisdom"? It's clear you didn't read the book and therefore have nothing useful to contribute other han to troll.

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  128. Norm Al says:

    OK, too many and too long. Let's tighten up, people. Bottom line: could be abortion reduces crime, but also could be an example of correlation without causation. For example, it may be the legalization of abortion accompanied a cultural shift in those states toward a less stringent view of crime.

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  129. Anonymous says:

    A proper sexual education to kids at school, may reduce abortion. And also help to reduce crime….

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  130. Anonymous says:

    Leslie's argument would make more sense if she were arguing in favor of forced sterilization of unfit parents than her apparent argument in favor of abortion. Abortion has been "legalized" for decades, and thus her examples of doomed children obviously were not prevented by the "legalization" of abortion. I'm neither for nor against "legalized" abortion, but I am very much against the judiciary's decades' long practice of substituting elitist views of good social policy for that of the democratically elected legislative bodies of this country.

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  131. bdhutch says:

    A couple of things to consider on why those aborted fetuses might have turned out to be criminals (which I think is not a strong part of Levitt's argument)The book argues that "unwanted" children are more subject to abuse and neglect. It also points to the mother's education level, poverty level, etc. In addition, the chapter on parenting says that unwanted children are treated worse than wanted children. But how do we know who the "unwanted" children are? If they are aborted, they don't exist and if they aren't there's no real way to know if they are "unwanted." While I'm not trying to make a feminist argument, it seems that the onus on these children who would have been born becoming criminals rests with the mothers.But what about the fathers? The book does mention that growing up in a fatherless home contributes, but what about the 50% of genes the child shares with the father. It's a guess, but I would assume most women who get abortions are not in a stable realtionship with the father and that most (not all) of those fathers are not interested in raising the child or even in the woman's decision as to whether or not to have the abortion. So the question becomes is the type of man who would impregnate a young woman (often teen), and who would have no interest in raising the child more likely to be a criminal? I'm guessing yes (but just guessing). And given that genetics must play some role in what kinds of adults children become (see Steven Pinker's The Blank Slate and the Freakonomics chapter that parenting strategies have little influence on raising children) it makes sense that these children would have been more likely to become criminals in good part because of the nature of their fathers.

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  132. Stephen_Hunt says:

    Dr. Levitt,I am wondering whether you have had time to examine the effect of the pill on declining crime rates? While it was introduced in the early 1960s, it was not widely accessible until the late 1960s and early 1970s. Some backgrounding I have done would suggest that it too had a substantial (if smaller) impact on birth rates, and even has had the net effect of decreasing the number of abortions in many geographic areas where it has found widespread use. I would be interested to hear your results if you have examined it, or if not, perhaps I should crunchthe numbers?I've just come across your book & your paper written with professor Donohue here at Stanford, and found it intriguing as I have had a similar interst in regards to the effect of the pill, other OCs (and numerous other pharms) on crime. Congrats on the book!Regards,Stephen HuntPS, this is my very first time blogging…

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  133. digitalfutur says:

    Steven, I just finished reading your book. It is a very good read, and thought-provoking. But there is one thing nagging me.

    Regarding the correlation between the reduction in unwanted births (via abortion) and the reduction in violent crime rates some 20 years later, you state on page 122 (chapter 4) that violent crime in the first half of the 20th century was, for the most part, fairly steady. Since abortion was illegal during this time period, this would suggest that your analysis about crime rate reduction applies only to the 1973-todate era because the correlation is not there prior to 1973.

    The absence of a correlation prior to 1973 also suggests that there may other factors influencing the reduction in crime in the 1990s (e.g. the spike in the birth rate from 1947 to 1965), or the relatively easy availability of birth control (the Pill) that began in the early 1960s, both of which can make it appear that abortion is the primary correlating factor, when it may be only a secondary factor.

    What I'm getting at is that if the reduction in unwanted births is not the primary correlation factor in violent crime reduction, violent crime may increase due to factors other than abortion, even if abortion remains as "legal" as it is now, and widespread availability of birth control continues. Do you agree?

    At one time, it was believed that rising inflation and rising unemployment were mutually exclusive. That belief ended in the late 1970s.

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  134. digitalfutur says:

    Steven, I just finished reading your book. It is a very good read, and thought-provoking. But there is one thing nagging me.

    Regarding the correlation between the reduction in unwanted births (via abortion) and the reduction in violent crime rates some 20 years later, you state on page 122 (chapter 4) that violent crime in the first half of the 20th century was, for the most part, fairly steady. Since abortion was illegal during this time period, this would suggest that your analysis about crime rate reduction applies only to the 1973-todate era because the correlation is not there prior to 1973.

    The absence of a correlation prior to 1973 also suggests that there may other factors influencing the reduction in crime in the 1990s (e.g. the spike in the birth rate from 1947 to 1965), or the relatively easy availability of birth control (the Pill) that began in the early 1960s, both of which can make it appear that abortion is the primary correlating factor, when it may be only a secondary factor.

    What I’m getting at is that if the reduction in unwanted births is not the primary correlation factor in violent crime reduction, violent crime may increase due to factors other than abortion, even if abortion remains as “legal” as it is now, and widespread availability of birth control continues. Do you agree?

    At one time, it was believed that rising inflation and rising unemployment were mutually exclusive. That belief ended in the late 1970s.

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  135. tenerife says:

    It's worth asking why crime was so much lower 50 years ago, in the absence of legal abortion and limited birth control options. There were teen pregnancies, but in most of those cases the girl secretly gave up her baby for adoption or married the father.

    I would argue that the knowledge that sex would likely lead to fatherhood and all its responsibilities was a civilizing influence on young men. If that is correct, then what is the result of large numbers of men spending more of their adult lives as bachelors, delaying marriage and fatherhood (and less likely to have daughters with 1- and 2-child families being the norm) but having plenty of sex? More crime? More predatory views towards women?

    All that said, I don't know how you turn the clock back to the old morality in the era of the internet, Paris Hilton and MTV. Maybe encouraging homeschooling or finding scientific breakthroughs to delay puberty.

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  136. tenerife says:

    It’s worth asking why crime was so much lower 50 years ago, in the absence of legal abortion and limited birth control options. There were teen pregnancies, but in most of those cases the girl secretly gave up her baby for adoption or married the father.

    I would argue that the knowledge that sex would likely lead to fatherhood and all its responsibilities was a civilizing influence on young men. If that is correct, then what is the result of large numbers of men spending more of their adult lives as bachelors, delaying marriage and fatherhood (and less likely to have daughters with 1- and 2-child families being the norm) but having plenty of sex? More crime? More predatory views towards women?

    All that said, I don’t know how you turn the clock back to the old morality in the era of the internet, Paris Hilton and MTV. Maybe encouraging homeschooling or finding scientific breakthroughs to delay puberty.

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  137. FRED J ABRAHAMS says:

    The first mention of the connection between the decline in crime and abortion was the Dec.'99 issue of Scientific American. It received almost no notice at the time. The reason it was ignored was that nearly all interests were adversely affected by the theory. The bias of prolife advocates is obvious, but law enforcement and politicians also reject the idea because it shows just how impotent their efforts really are.

    Another totally unrecognized reason for declining crime rates is the increase in cell phone use. If you lived in a major metropolitan area during the decades before cell phones and wanted to report a street crime or a suspicious potential crime, the event was over long before you found a working payphone especially in higher crime areas. Police were also more likely to respond quickly to cell phone calls because they are perceived to be more upscale.

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  138. FRED J ABRAHAMS says:

    The first mention of the connection between the decline in crime and abortion was the Dec.’99 issue of Scientific American. It received almost no notice at the time. The reason it was ignored was that nearly all interests were adversely affected by the theory. The bias of prolife advocates is obvious, but law enforcement and politicians also reject the idea because it shows just how impotent their efforts really are.

    Another totally unrecognized reason for declining crime rates is the increase in cell phone use. If you lived in a major metropolitan area during the decades before cell phones and wanted to report a street crime or a suspicious potential crime, the event was over long before you found a working payphone especially in higher crime areas. Police were also more likely to respond quickly to cell phone calls because they are perceived to be more upscale.

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  139. Michelle Wetzler says:
    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  140. Michelle Wetzler says:

    Here is a Steve Sailer quote from within this thread that strikes me as incredibly sexist and classist:

    “Imagine a woman who started having unprotected sex because abortion was legalized. She gets pregnant, but then, for one reason or another, doesn’t have an abortion.”

    “Perhaps she hopes that having the baby will persuade the father to marry her. Perhaps when the father refuses to marry her she decides that if no man loves her, well, at least a baby would love her and cheer her up. Maybe all her girlfriends are having babies and it seems like the fashionable thing to do in her circle. Maybe it gets her out of having to go to high school and take a lot of boring classes she doesn’t understand. Perhaps she finds she can get her own public housing project apartment and move out of her nagging mother’s house if she becomes a mother herself, and then she can have sex with all the men she wants. Perhaps she keeps forgetting her appointment at the clinic because she’s not too bright. Perhaps every time she gets the cash together for an abortion, she spends it on drugs first.”

    Here has as painted a pretty ugly picture for us: women who have unprotected sex thinking they could later abort, but decide to keep their previously unwanted baby for the following reasons:

    1) to keep a man
    2) to conteract loneliness
    3) to fit in
    4) to avoid a nagging mother
    5) to get public housing
    6) to have more sex
    7) to get drugs instead of spending money on the abortion

    I am naive to think these aren’t the main reasons people, even those in the worst environments for raising children, want to keep their babies? The description Sailer gives doesn’t sound like a real person to me. Maybe they did think abortion was alternative to birth control, and maybe some of his reasons were factors, but isn’t it more likely that they wanted to keep the baby, at least partly, for one of these reasons?

    1) they wanted to raise the child (is it not a basic instinct?)
    2) they changed their mind about abortion

    I am I too naive? Is he not totally demonizing these women? Is he saying that the people who use abortion as birth control are completely selfish and deranged?

    This and many of his other statements give me the distinct impression that Steve Sailer is a huge jackass.

    Levitt, my sympathies for having to deal with this guy. Keep fighting the good, logical, sane fight.

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  141. David says:

    So what?

    Even if one stipulated that all aborted fetuses would have grown up to be serial killers, I don't think it should carry any weight in the debate over when abortion should be legal.

    The tension is between the freedom of women and the state's role to protect children.

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  142. David says:

    So what?

    Even if one stipulated that all aborted fetuses would have grown up to be serial killers, I don’t think it should carry any weight in the debate over when abortion should be legal.

    The tension is between the freedom of women and the state’s role to protect children.

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  143. Peter says:

    The debate about the actual stats is irrelevant. Abortion caanot lower crime because it is utterly contradictory to say that an increase in murder (i.e. abortion) causes lower crime. Of course, that argument only works if people believe a fetus is a form of human life separated from other types of human life by the same force that separates kids from adults: time. And as science is increasingly supporting this idea, and religon always has, I think it makes sense to agree that a fetus is a life, and therefore it is a crime to end it.

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  144. Peter says:

    The debate about the actual stats is irrelevant. Abortion caanot lower crime because it is utterly contradictory to say that an increase in murder (i.e. abortion) causes lower crime. Of course, that argument only works if people believe a fetus is a form of human life separated from other types of human life by the same force that separates kids from adults: time. And as science is increasingly supporting this idea, and religon always has, I think it makes sense to agree that a fetus is a life, and therefore it is a crime to end it.

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  145. Honor says:

    The pity, "Shauna", is that with all this education and knowledge available, we still have so many people basing their life decisions on ignorant superstition from the bronze age… People who can't tell the difference between a fetus and a human being because someone in a special outfit told them not to think for themselves.

    Excellent article, Mr. Levitt, and thank you for the follow-up

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  146. Honor says:

    The pity, “Shauna”, is that with all this education and knowledge available, we still have so many people basing their life decisions on ignorant superstition from the bronze age… People who can’t tell the difference between a fetus and a human being because someone in a special outfit told them not to think for themselves.

    Excellent article, Mr. Levitt, and thank you for the follow-up

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  147. JustJim says:

    There could be some correlation, but of course it does not explain why states that had legal abortion BEFORE Roe V Wade did not see a corresponding drop in crime before other states.

    Since only a monster would consider altering his or her stance on abortion based on potential to impact crime rates 25 years later, on wonders why these guys feel so compelled to continue to argue and re-argue this point.

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  148. Carole McIntyre says:

    I’m fine with most of this, until we get to the place of crack being a sometime thing, like El Nino. What I see is that once addiction is established, and an addictive drug is experienced by those inclined to so experiment, it is here to stay. I live in a small rural town, where heroin and prescription drug abuse is fairly severe: bad enough that many job applicants cannot pass obligatory drug tests to become employed. I have heard figures that as high as two or three hundred applicants are tested to yield a few “clean” people. Now, part of this is that “clean” people are already employed, and not in the pool of applicants. But, still, that’s a lot of users in a population.

    I think there probably is a good positive correlation between the reduction in the numbers of unwanted children born and a drop in crime. And I think that effective contraception should be widely available, and knowledge of its use taught in schools, and that legalized abortion is a necessary fallback. A recent study apparently found that one in three girls pregnant in high school “didn’t think they could get pregnant.” Either they didn’t understand their own cycle of ovulation, or were seriously kidding themselves.

    Addiction is curiously democratic: someone who is unhappy (for whatever reason) may be more prone to the experimentation, but happiness is no shield against habituation, if a drug is tried. I don’t know how you determine the addiction rate for a cohort (a lot of it goes on in secret), but I don’t really think it’s all that cyclic. Think of it more as an infestation: once established, it’s very difficult to eradicate.

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  149. natasha jaskowski says:

    I am interested in how much money may have been saved by legalizing abortions. I realize there would be many factors, such as, wages gained (by women who did not die from coat hangers), taxes gained by the government (women paid their taxes because they were alive to do so), hospital bills (abortion cost balanced with lack of botched abortion care), and fewer people imprisoned. How do these numbers work out for the savings or cost to the tax payer?

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  150. Faith says:

    So, if I read right, your finally conclusion is that legalized abortion is helping lower our crime rate. What about the great number of extremely talented and intelligent people who were slated to become part of the abortion statistic, but somehow escaped? Where do you draw the line? You could argue for murdering young black males from this line of thinking… how about helping these people build better lives, and not just eliminating them? Crime rates grow as the number of illegal immigrants increases also. Shall we line them up and shoot them? Smacks of Hitler and ethnic cleansing. Planned Parenthood was founded by a Ms. Sanger whose goal was to completely eliminate blacks from our society.

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  151. Paul Kane says:

    If there is a direct correlation between the rate of abortion and the crime rate one would have expected a similar correlation between the use of “the pill” and the crime rate. Could research be also completed pre and post the introduction of “the pill” to prove irrefutably that this correlation is true? Has any work been completed on this question?

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  152. Paul Van Esbroeck says:

    There is an odious history of scientists making great claims for things as varied as frontal lobotomies to eugenics as a away of solving the problem of criminality. A proper scientist should at least admit the possibility of systematic error, and try to estimate the error in his solution. While the timing of the trends may be correct, the attribution of causality must still be plausible.

    Problems I have with what strikes me as too neat an answer.

    NYC murder rate fell to 1/3 of its 1980 value in 5 years and then has remained fairly stable. If this is due to abortion access, it would seem to indicate that 2 out of every 3 murders in 1980 were committed by people aged 18-23, who would have been aborted if abortion had been legal. It seems one should be able to compute how much more likely an unwanted pregnancies brought to term will turn into a murderer, compared to wanted births.

    Starting in about 1962 birth rates began decreasing, in part because contraceptives became available, and began to be increasingly used. This is another way to prevent unwanted children, so by the very logic of the “abortion decreases crime by getting rid of unwanted children who turn into criminals” argument, this should have had an effect on crime statistics, unless the crime is caused only by the children of woman who choose to regulate only via abortions.

    The marked difference in violent crime rates in countries with very similar abortion rates, would seem to imply that access to abortion is not a very powerful driver, as compared with gun control for example

    Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0
  153. Will Harden says:

    Election Night Frivolity. As I watched the election parties on TV, I was impressed by the youthfullness and shallow joy of the crowds. I saw children who have chosen–

    The candy bar that ruins their appetite for a steak dinner.
    Buying votes with my money rather than budget discipline.
    Pretences of caring for the middle class while rewarding Wall Street gangsters with billions in bailouts and no arrests.
    Vicious character assassination and name calling over honest goals from two capable men.
    Empty emotional appeals and gtittering generalities instead of managerial and fiscal ability.
    A great rush towar debt, public spending and dependency over personal responsibility
    Massive deficits that will burden them and their children for the rest of their lives

    And so, the multitudes gather out on a frozen lake of debt while the ice is melting..
    Forgive them. . . They know not what they do.

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  154. Jonathan Swift says:

    Quit plagiarizing me!

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  155. Shyam Gupta says:

    Article below states that crime in the US increased/decreased due to Lead poisoning, what do you folks have to say about that? If true, it proves your abortion theory wrong..
    http://www.forbes.com/sites/alexknapp/2013/01/03/how-lead-caused-americas-violent-crime-epidemic/

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  156. Tom Weisskopf says:

    How would you respond to the argument in the following article –

    http://www.motherjones.com/environment/2013/01/lead-crime-link-gasoline

    to the effect that variations in violent crime are best explained not by variations in the accessibility of abortion, but by variations in exposure to lead? There seems to be an impressive amount of statistical evidence, as well as good theoretical grounding, for the lead hypothesis.

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  157. Mark says:

    I would be interested to know your opinion of the argument put forward by David Frum that Gasoline lead levels also correlate to the fall in crime. The dates seem to fi tas do yours with Abortion, he also points to this explaining to some extent the higher crime rates in cities (are crime rates higher?)
    http://www.motherjones.com/environment/2013/01/lead-crime-link-gasoline

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  158. Pete Montgomery says:

    So… I’m sure I’m not the only one who would love to hear your response to the lead-poisoning correlation currently in the news!

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  159. Gridlock says:

    AH, but the majority of homicides yearly 51% is committed by 6.5% of the population.
    Who is that 6.5% of the population? BLACKS.
    The next lethal race group? Non-white Hispanics (they commit 29% of the homicides yearly).
    Whites, statistically speaking commit 0nly 3% or less of the homicides.
    Of the racial populations arrested for serious crimes, 1/3 of all USA blacks have been jailed or in the process of being jailed. For non-Hispanic Whites, only 0.03% of the USA population have been jailed. Given that the non-White Hispanic population is excluded from most crime statistics (to inflate the White crime rate) for the past decade, it is hard to accurately state the criminal percentages in the USA, but not so hard to state the percentages in Spain or Mexico.

    GOOGLE [? New York City Homicide Map 2003-2009 ] (click “Race of Perpetrator”)
    Of the 4161 murders in a 6-year period, the known races of the murderer were:
    Black = 61% (2538 murders),
    Hispanic = 29% (1207 murders),
    White = 7% (291 murders)
    Oriental = 3% (125 murders)
    Together Blacks & Hispanics committed 90% of all the murders. Not racist? Then you are a suicidal moron.

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  160. Gridlock says:

    A better question to pursue would be, “Does abortion reduce the rates of violent psychopathy in the population?”

    Think about it. Who would be willing to murder their offspring? Sociopaths & Psychopaths.
    If allowed to legally murder their children (born or unborn) then these genetic traits will not prosper to spread to another generation thusly a sociopath (no emotional empathy for the suffering of others, but usually is logically orientated) or psychopath (no emotional empathy for others, but is instinctually driven to impulsively harm themselves or others) is self-terminating their mental illness at the genetic level.

    The problem is a self-correcting solution in my eyes. Those whom would casually murder their own babies (and by extension other human beings) will reduce the number of mentally-defective sociopaths/psychopaths which then are able to reproduce in the future. The only problem with this is the reproduction rate of the psychopath/sociopaths per the r/K selection theory. In which case, the racial groups that exhibit the lowest intelligence plus the strongest psychopathic genetic traits (blacks primarily with the percentages closely followed by Hispanics) are also reproducing the fastest.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Life_history_theory
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/R/K_selection_theory

    In the United States, black illegitimacy rates are down slightly from their high in 1994, when 70.4 percent of black women who gave birth were unmarried. The 2000 figure of 68.7 is still the highest for any racial group, and is followed by American Indians at 58.4 percent, Hispanics 42.7 percent, whites 22.1 percent, and Asians 14.8 percent. The Asian figure includes populations with greatly differing illegitimacy rates, with native Hawaiians, for example, at 50 percent, Japanese at 9.5 percent, and Chinese at 7.6 percent.

    Psychopaths appear to enjoy taking risks because it stimulates them, and there are several ways in which blacks show greater recklessness and risk taking than whites or Asians. In the 1989-93 American Teenage Attitudes and Practices Survey, 9,135 youths aged 12 to 18 were asked to consider the question: “I get a kick out of doing things every now and then that are a little risky or dangerous.” Fifty-six point nine percent of blacks agreed, as compared with 38.6 percent of whites. Driving habits are an index of risk taking and recklessness. A number of studies have shown that blacks run red lights more often than whites, and have more frequent accidents. Five studies have shown that blacks do not use seat belts as often as whites. Hispanics and Native Americans likewise have more accidents caused by recklessness and risk-taking than whites and East Asians.

    The most extreme expression of the inability to function as a responsible parent consists of killing a child. Racial differences in the homicide of infants in their first year of life were examined for approximately 35 million babies born in the United States between 1983-91. This study found that 2,776 of these had been murdered, the great majority by mothers or the mothers’ husbands or partners. The rate of infant homicides for blacks and Native Americans was 2 per 10,000, compared with 0.6 per 10,000 for whites and 0.4 per 10,000 for East Asians. In the early 1990s the racial differences became even greater, with blacks having four-and-a-half times the infant homicide rate of whites and Hispanics.

    Lack of honesty is one of the core features of the psychopathic personality, and one measure of this characteristic is the default rates on student loans. About half of American college students take out loans but not all graduates repay them. The 1987 National Postsecondary Student Aid Study consisting of 6,338 cases reports default rates as follows: whites—5 percent, Hispanics—20 percent, American Indians—45 percent, blacks—55 percent.

    Bad credit ratings also reflect a failure to honor financial obligations. A report by Freddie Mac of 12,000 households in 1999 found the highest percentage of poor credit ratings was among blacks (48 percent). The next highest was among Hispanics (34 percent), while whites had the lowest at 27 percent.

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 1
  161. Gridlock says:

    Another simple example would be in the field of racism & violence.
    Since violent psychopathy is genetic, racially prominently black, and destructive.

    Viding, E., James R., Blair, R., Moffitt, T. E., Plomin, R. (2005). Evidence for substantial genetic risk for psychopathy in 7-year-olds. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 46, 6.
    http://www.futurepundit.com/archives/002792.html
    Psychopathy is strongly genetically infuenced.
    Twin studies can help distinguish between genetic and environmental determinants of violence, said Essi Viding of the Institute of Psychiatry in London. In antisocial 7-year-olds with callous and unemotional traits, Viding found, the antisocial behavior was strongly genetic in origin (a group heritability of 80%).

    http://sentencingproject.org/doc/publications/jj_The_Lives_of_Juvenile_Lifers.pdf
    The Lives of Juvenile Lifers: Findings from a National Survey
    Ashley Nellis, Ph.D.
    March, 2012

    Racial Dynamics of Victims and Offenders
    Our survey captured race and ethnicity data on most of the 1,844 homicide victims
    as well and this is reported below. Of the victims, nearly half were white, one third
    were black and 9.2% were Latino.

    Table 5. Race of Homicide Victims and Offenders (in this table, juvenile murderers)
    White Homicide Victims
    Black Offenders 23.2% (6,488)
    White Offenders 76.8% (21,510)

    Black Homicide Victims
    Black Offenders 93.6% (24,118)
    White Offenders 6.4% (1,651)

    As you can plainly see, a white person is only 6.4% likely to kill a black victim versus a black person being 23.2% likely to kill a white person. An anti-White racist overkill ratio of 3.625 times. Blacks are clearly more racist and more psychopathic and disarming them from owning guns & weaponry is, without question, the only path to social stability.
    Also, since violent psychopathy is 80% inheritable, then paying black mothers to remove their reproductive abilities is the best future investment in crime reduction for all money spent in the criminal justice system.

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 1
  162. Gridlock says:

    Racial disparity of criminals. Why are blacks so violently psychopathic?
    http://www.sentencingproject.org/template/page.cfm?id=122

    More than 60% of the people in prison are now racial and ethnic minorities. For Black males in their thirties, 1 in every 10 black male is in prison or jail on any given day. These trends have been intensified by the disproportionate impact of the “war on drugs,” in which two-thirds of all persons in prison for drug offenses are people of color.

    Rate of incarceration by gender/race per 100,000
    Males
    Black = 3059 per 100000
    Latino = 1252 per 100000
    White = 456 per 100000

    Females
    Black = 133 per 100000
    Latino = 77 per 100000
    White = 47 per 100000

    Few are brave enough to identify it as a continual genocide against Whites by Blacks & Latinos.
    Few are brave enough to identify genetic psychopathy as almost exclusively racial in nature.
    Abortion is one solution, but far too slow & inadequate to remove a violent predatory species that exclusive preys upon another.

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 1
  163. Palladia says:

    What is the >gender< of most murderers? Shouldn't we also consider the overwhelming preponderance of males among murderers?

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  164. matt says:

    first link is broken. -> Donohue-Levitt hypothesis

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  165. James says:

    @ Gridlock

    To sum up your argument, the majority of Black and Hispanic people are psychopaths / sociopaths and paying them to have abortions will drastically reduce crime rates.

    By your argument psychopaths /sociopaths ARE the ones having the abortions….and the majority of these psychopaths /sociopaths are Black and Hispanic women….then how does it follow that they are still figuring high in your crime rates?

    You haven’t established ANY of your facts up to the point at which you show that there is a higher crime rate among Black and Hispanic minorities.

    Please do so or your argument remains fundamentally flawed.

    Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0
  166. James says:

    …not to mention turning the topic from one of abortion to crime ration to one of racial genocide.

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  167. Paul Donohue says:

    Thank you.

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  168. Teed Rockwell says:

    Salier writes”Lots of people assume that illegitimacy and abortion must be inversely correlated, but the historical record in America shows that they are both high at the same time and low at the same time.”

    Actually there is no reason to assume that they should be correlated at all, once we acknowledge that people chose to have children out of wedlock in greater numbers from the sixties on. Whether or not this was a wise decision, this fact shows that there is no reason to assume any correlation whatsoever between out-of-wedlock births and unwanted births. Consequently this rise in out-of-wedlock births is completely irrelevant to this issue of unwanted births, because both out-of-wedlock and within-wedlock births will contain large numbers of both wanted and unwanted births. This rise is the only fact that Sailer offers in his argument, and it doesn’t support his thesis. Consequently, all that is left is a racist classist rant against stupid dark poor people, supposedly based on “what we all saw on the street.” My guess is that Sailer’s paranoid racism stopped him from going to any of the streets where he could have actually interacted with these people, and that his descriptions are fabrications of his own diseased imagination.

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 1
  169. DaveF says:

    Hi,

    I’m assuming you’re aware of recent remarks in the economist magazine that call this theory discredited :

    http://www.economist.com/blogs/economist-explains/2013/07/economist-explains-16#comments

    I thought I would ask whether there had indeed been evidence to cause you to abandon this hypothesis or whether you thought it still held.

    Regards,
    Dave

    Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0
    • todd says:

      I wouldn’t hold my breath waiting for a reply from Levitt or Donohue. After Foote and Goetz thoroughly trounced Levitt’s first example of error generation due to acute confirmatory bias ( I know of no other way of explaining it), Donohue and Levitt paid homage to compounding their own errors by publishing http://pricetheory.uchicago.edu/levitt/Papers/ResponseToFooteGoetz2006.pdf. Which was subsequently readily refuted and then not further defended. http://www.nber.org/papers/w13759 and http://scholar.harvard.edu/files/miron/files/comment_on_dl_fg_0.pdf.

      One would think that if their postulate were defensible, they’d have done so by now.

      Frankly, I find it both disheartening and astounding that such a brilliant mind as levitt’s could have been so thoroughly fooled by itself. But then, I guess, we are all human and vulnerable to egoistic hubris, or confirmatory bias, or whatever mechanism it was that resulted in the original and subsequent arguments on abortion and crime.

      Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0
  170. Andy Rhodes says:

    Regarding the Freakonomics theory that legalized abortion beginning in the 1970s was one of the major causes of the crime decline in the 1990s, Steven Pinker argues against this in his book, “The Better Angels Of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined”, pages 119-121. He says that the statistics don’t support this theory:

    —————————–

    The 1990s crime decline inspired one of the stranger hypotheses in the study of violence. When I told people I was writing a book on the historical decline of violence, I was repeatedly informed that the phenomenon had already been solved. Rates of violence have come down, they explained to me, because after abortion was legalized by the 1973 Roe v. Wade U.S. Supreme Court decision, the unwanted children who would ordinarily have grown up to be criminals were not born in the first place, because their begrudging or unfit mothers had had abortions instead. I first heard of this theory in 2001 when it was proposed by the economists John Donohue and Steven Levitt, but it seemed too cute to be true.147 Any hypothesis that comes out of left field to explain a massive social trend with a single overlooked event will almost certainly turn out to be wrong, even if it has some data supporting it at the time. But Levitt, together with the journalist Stephen Dubner, popularized the theory in their bestseller Freakonomics , and now a large proportion of the public believes that crime went down in the 1990s because women aborted their crime-fated fetuses in the 1970s.

    To be fair, Levitt went on to argue that Roe v. Wade was just one of four causes of the crime decline, and he has presented sophisticated correlational statistics in support of the connection. For example, he showed that the handful of states that legalized abortion before 1973 were the first to see their crime rates go down.148 But these statistics compare the two ends of a long, hypothetical, and tenuous causal chain— the availability of legal abortion as the first link and the decline in crime two decades later as the last— and ignore all the links in between. The links include the assumptions that legal abortion causes fewer unwanted children, that unwanted children are more likely to become criminals, and that the first abortion-culled generation was the one spearheading the 1990s crime decline. But there are other explanations for the overall correlation (for example, that the large liberal states that first legalized abortion were also the first states to see the rise and fall of the crack epidemic), and the intermediate links have turned out to be fragile or nonexistent.149

    To begin with, the freakonomics theory assumes that women were just as likely to have conceived unwanted children before and after 1973, and that the only difference was whether the children were born. But once abortion was legalized, couples may have treated it as a backup method of birth control and may have engaged in more unprotected sex. If the women conceived more unwanted children in the first place, the option of aborting more of them could leave the proportion of unwanted children the same. In fact, the proportion of unwanted children could even have increased if women were emboldened by the abortion option to have more unprotected sex in the heat of the moment, but then procrastinated or had second thoughts once they were pregnant. That may help explain why in the years since 1973 the proportion of children born to women in the most vulnerable categories—poor, single, teenage, and African American—did not decrease, as the freakonomics theory would predict. It increased, and by a lot.150

    What about differences among individual women within a crime-prone population? Here the freakonomics theory would seem to get things backwards. Among women who are accidentally pregnant and unprepared to raise a child, the ones who terminate their pregnancies are likely to be forwardthinking, realistic, and disciplined, whereas the ones who carry the child to term are more likely to be fatalistic, disorganized, or immaturely focused on the thought of a cute baby rather than an unruly adolescent. Several studies have borne this out.151 Young pregnant women who opt for abortions get better grades, are less likely to be on welfare, and are more likely to finish school than their counterparts who have miscarriages or carry their pregnancies to term. The availability of abortion thus may have led to a generation that is more prone to crime because it weeded out just the children who, whether through genes or environment, were most likely to exercise maturity and self-control.

    Also, the freakonomists’ theory about the psychological causes of crime comes right out of “Gee, Officer Krupke,” when a gang member says of his parents, “They didn’t wanna have me, but somehow I was had. Leapin’ lizards! That’s why I’m so bad!” And it is about as plausible. Though unwanted children may grow up to commit more crimes, it is more likely that women in crime-prone environments have more unwanted children than that unwantedness causes criminal behavior directly. In studies that pit the effects of parenting against the effects of the children’s peer environment, holding genes constant, the peer environment almost always wins.152

    Finally, if easy abortion after 1973 sculpted a more crime-averse generation, the crime decline should have begun with the youngest group and then crept up the age brackets as they got older. The sixteen-yearolds of 1993, for example (who were born in 1977, when abortions were in full swing), should have committed fewer crimes than the sixteen-year-olds of 1983 (who were born in 1967, when abortion was illegal). By similar logic, the twenty-two-year-olds of 1993 should have remained violent, because they were born in pre-Roe 1971. Only in the late 1990s, when the first post-Roe generation reached their twenties, should the twenty-something age bracket have become less violent. In fact, the opposite happened. When the first post-Roe generation came of age in the late 1980s and early 1990s, they did not tug the homicide statistics downward; they indulged in an unprecedented spree of mayhem. The crime decline began when the older cohorts, born well before Roe, laid down their guns and knives, and from them the lower homicide rates trickled down the age scale.153

    Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0
  171. kevin says:

    too hard :(

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  172. Scott Reynolds says:

    I hope there is a 3rd, 4th, and 5th book you’re working on.

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  173. Robert says:

    What about the advance of forensics and our understanding of DNA? Couldn’t that have acted as a major deterrent to crime around the same time period?

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  174. Jeff says:

    “But for every 10 percent that murder rose between 1985 and 1991, it fell by only 2.6 percent between 1991 and 1997″. Doesn’t this imply that the murder rate in 1997 was higher than 1985? I don’t understand.

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0