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Further Evidence that Legalized Abortion Lowered Crime: A Reply to Joyce

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  • John J. Donohue, III
  • Steven D. Levitt

Abstract

Donohue and Levitt (2001) suggest there is a causal link between legalized abortion and reductions in crime almost two decades later when the cohorts exposed to legalized abortion reach their peak crime years. Joyce (2003) examines crime committed in the period 1985– 90 for the cohorts born immediately before and after abortion legalization. He finds little impact of legalized abortion. In this paper, we demonstrate that Joyce’s failure to uncover a negative relationship between abortion and crime is a consequence of his decision to focus almost exclusively on one nonrepresentative six-year period during the peak of the crack epidemic. We provide empirical evidence that the crack-cocaine epidemic hit the high-abortion early-legalizing states earlier and more severely than other states. When we simply replicate his analyses, but extend the sample to cover the entire lives of these exact same cohorts, abortion is just as negatively related to crime as in our original analysis. Joyce’s results appear to be purely an artifact of omitted variable bias due to focusing on the peak crack years without including adequate controls for crack.

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Bibliographic Info

Article provided by University of Wisconsin Press in its journal Journal of Human Resources.

Volume (Year): 39 (2004)
Issue (Month): 1 ()
Pages:

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Handle: RePEc:uwp:jhriss:v:39:y:2004:i:1:p29-49

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Web page: http://jhr.uwpress.org/

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  1. Philip J. Cook & John H. Laub, 2001. "After the Epidemic: Recent Trends in Youth Violence in the United States," NBER Working Papers 8571, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Sen Anindya, 2007. "Does Increased Abortion Lead to Lower Crime? Evaluating the Relationship between Crime, Abortion, and Fertility," The B.E. Journal of Economic Analysis & Policy, De Gruyter, vol. 7(1), pages 1-38, September.
  3. Anindya Sen, 2002. "Does Increased Abortion Lead to Reduced Crime? Evaluating the Relationship between Crime, Abortion, and Fertility," Working Papers 02004, University of Waterloo, Department of Economics, revised Jan 2002.
  4. Theodore J. Joyce, 1985. "The Impact of Induced Abortion on Birth Outcomes in the U.S," NBER Working Papers 1757, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. John J. Donohue & Steven D. Levitt, 1999. "Legalized Abortion and Crime," JCPR Working Papers 104, Northwestern University/University of Chicago Joint Center for Poverty Research.
  6. Jonathan Gruber & Phillip Levine & Douglas Staiger, 1999. "Abortion Legalization And Child Living Circumstances: Who Is The ''Marginal Child''?," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 114(1), pages 263-291, February.
  7. Theodore Joyce, 1987. "The impact of induced abortion on black and white birth outcomes in the United States," Demography, Springer, vol. 24(2), pages 229-244, May.
  8. Ted Joyce, 2004. "Did Legalized Abortion Lower Crime?," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 39(1).
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