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Further Tests of Abortion and Crime

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  • Ted Joyce

Abstract

The inverse relationship between abortion and crime has spurred new research and much controversy. If the relationship is causal, then polices that increased abortion have generated enormous external benefits from reduced crime. In previous papers, I argued that evidence for a casual relationship is weak and incomplete. In this paper, I conduct a number of new analyses intended to address criticisms of my earlier work. First, I examine closely the effects of changes in abortion rates between 1971 and 1974. Changes in abortion rates during this period were dramatic, varied widely by state, had a demonstrable effect on fertility, and were more plausibly exogenous than changes in the late 1970s and early 1980s. If abortion reduced crime, crime should have fallen sharply as these post-legalization cohorts reached their late teens and early 20s, the peak ages of criminal involvement. It did not. Second, I conduct separate estimates for whites and blacks because the effect of legalized abortion on crime should have been much larger for blacks than whites, since the effect of legalization of abortion on the fertility rates of blacks was much larger. There was little race difference in the reduction in crime. Finally, I compare changes in homicide rates before and after legalization of abortion, within states, by single year of age. The analysis of older adults is compelling because they were largely unaffected by the crack-cocaine epidemic, which was a potentially important confounding factor in earlier estimates. These analyses provide little evidence that legalized abortion reduced crime.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 10564.

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Date of creation: Jun 2004
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Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:10564

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  1. Charles, Kerwin Kofi & Stephens, Melvin, Jr, 2006. "Abortion Legalization and Adolescent Substance Use," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 49(2), pages 481-505, October.
  2. John J. Donohue, III & Steven D. Levitt, 2004. "Further Evidence that Legalized Abortion Lowered Crime: A Reply to Joyce," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 39(1).
  3. Jonathan Gruber & Phillip Levine & Douglas Staiger, 1997. "Abortion Legalization and Child Living Circumstances: Who is the "Marginal Child?"," NBER Working Papers 6034, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. Theodore Joyce & Robert Kaestner & Sanders Korenman, 2000. "The effect of pregnancy intention on child development," Demography, Springer, vol. 37(1), pages 83-94, February.
  5. John J. Donohue & Steven D. Levitt, 2001. "The Impact Of Legalized Abortion On Crime," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 116(2), pages 379-420, May.
  6. Steven D. Levitt, 2004. "Understanding Why Crime Fell in the 1990s: Four Factors that Explain the Decline and Six that Do Not," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 18(1), pages 163-190, Winter.
  7. Ted Joyce, 2004. "Did Legalized Abortion Lower Crime?," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 39(1).
  8. Meyer, Bruce D, 1995. "Natural and Quasi-experiments in Economics," Journal of Business & Economic Statistics, American Statistical Association, vol. 13(2), pages 151-61, April.
  9. Theodore J. Joyce & Naci H. Mocan, 1989. "The Impact of a Ban on Legalized Abortion on Adolescent Childbearing in New York City," NBER Working Papers 3002, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  10. Ted Joyce, 2001. "Did Legalized Abortion Lower Crime?," NBER Working Papers 8319, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  11. Jonathan Klick & Sven Neelsen & Thomas Stratmann, 2009. "The Effect of Abortion Liberalization on Sexual Behavior: International Evidence," Ifo Working Paper Series Ifo Working Paper Nr. 79, Ifo Institute for Economic Research at the University of Munich.
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Cited by:
  1. Elizabeth Oltmans Ananat & Jonathan Gruber & Phillip B. Levine & Douglas Staiger, 2009. "Abortion and Selection," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 91(1), pages 124-136, February.
  2. John M. Nunley & Richard Alan Seals & Joachim Zietz, 2010. "Demographic Change, Macroeconomic Conditions, and the Murder Rate: The Case of the United States, 1934 to 2006," Auburn Economics Working Paper Series auwp2010-04, Department of Economics, Auburn University.
  3. Todd D. Kendall & Robert Tamura, 2010. "Unmarried Fertility, Crime, and Social Stigma," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 53(1), pages 185-221, 02.
  4. James M. Poterba, 2005. "Steven D. Levitt: 2003 John Bates Clark Medalist," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 19(3), pages 181-198, Summer.
  5. Jessica Wolpaw Reyes, 2007. "Environmental Policy as Social Policy? The Impact of Childhood Lead Exposure on Crime," NBER Working Papers 13097, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. Theodore J. Joyce, 2009. "Abortion and Crime: A Review," NBER Working Papers 15098, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  7. Theodore J. Joyce, 2006. "Further Tests of Abortion and Crime: A Response to Donohue and Levitt (2001,2004, 2006)," NBER Working Papers 12607, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  8. Ellen, Ingrid Gould & O'Regan, Katherine, 2010. "Crime and urban flight revisited: The effect of the 1990s drop in crime on cities," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 68(3), pages 247-259, November.
  9. Whitaker, Stephan, 2011. "The impact of legalized abortion on high school graduation through selection and composition," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 30(2), pages 228-246, April.

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