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Abortion And Crime: Unwanted Children And Out‐Of‐Wedlock Births

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  • JOHN R. LOTT
  • JOHN WHITLEY

Abstract

Legalizing abortion can either increase or decrease investments in children’s human capital. This article finds that abortion increases the number of out‐of‐wedlock births. Using data that more directly links the criminal with age when the crime was committed, not age when arrested, and fixing the assumption in previous research that no abortions took place prior to the Roe v. Wade decision in the 45 states affected by that decision, we find consistent significant evidence that legalizing abortions increased murders by over 7%. Linear estimates indicate that legalization increased total annual victimization costs by at least $3.2 billion. (JEL K42, K14, J24)

Suggested Citation

  • John R. Lott & John Whitley, 2007. "Abortion And Crime: Unwanted Children And Out‐Of‐Wedlock Births," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 45(2), pages 304-324, April.
  • Handle: RePEc:bla:ecinqu:v:45:y:2007:i:2:p:304-324
    DOI: 10.1111/j.1465-7295.2006.00040.x
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    File URL: https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1465-7295.2006.00040.x
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    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. John J. Donohue III & Steven D. Levitt, 2001. "The Impact of Legalized Abortion on Crime," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 116(2), pages 379-420.
    2. Jonathan Gruber & Phillip Levine & Douglas Staiger, 1999. "Abortion Legalization and Child Living Circumstances: Who is the "Marginal Child"?," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 114(1), pages 263-291.
    3. Grossman, Michael & Chaloupka, Frank J., 1998. "The demand for cocaine by young adults: a rational addiction approach," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 17(4), pages 427-474, August.
    4. Grossman, Michael & Joyce, Theodore J, 1990. "Unobservables, Pregnancy Resolutions, and Birth Weight Production Functions in New York City," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 98(5), pages 983-1007, October.
    5. Ted Joyce, 2004. "Did Legalized Abortion Lower Crime?," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 39(1).
    6. 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).
    7. George A. Akerlof & Janet L. Yellen & Michael L. Katz, 1996. "An Analysis of Out-of-Wedlock Childbearing in the United States," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 111(2), pages 277-317.
    8. Plassmann, Florenz & Tideman, T Nicolaus, 2001. "Does the Right to Carry Concealed Handguns Deter Countable Crimes? Only a Count Analysis Can Say," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 44(2), pages 771-798, October.
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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Crin�, Rosario & Immordino, Giovanni & Piccolo, Salvatore, 2017. "Marginal Deterrence at Work," CEPR Discussion Papers 12023, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    2. Michael A. Clemens, 2017. "The Meaning Of Failed Replications: A Review And Proposal," Journal of Economic Surveys, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 31(1), pages 326-342, February.
    3. Wanchuan Lin & Juan Pantano, 2015. "The unintended: negative outcomes over the life cycle," Journal of Population Economics, Springer;European Society for Population Economics, vol. 28(2), pages 479-508, April.
    4. Ted Joyce, 2010. "Abortion and Crime: A Review," Chapters, in: Bruce L. Benson & Paul R. Zimmerman (ed.), Handbook on the Economics of Crime, chapter 18, Edward Elgar Publishing.
    5. Edinaldo Tebaldi & Erik Alda, 2017. "Quality of Institutions and Violence Incidence: a Cross-Country Analysis," Atlantic Economic Journal, Springer;International Atlantic Economic Society, vol. 45(3), pages 365-384, September.
    6. François, Abel & Magni-Berton, Raul & Weill, Laurent, 2014. "Abortion and crime: Cross-country evidence from Europe," International Review of Law and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 40(C), pages 24-35.
    7. Gebhard Kirchgässner, 2011. "Econometric Estimates of Deterrence of the Death Penalty: Facts or Ideology?," Kyklos, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 64(3), pages 448-478, August.
    8. Robert Chernomas & Ian Hudson, 2013. "Steven Levitt on Abortion and Crime: Old Economics in New Bottles," American Journal of Economics and Sociology, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 72(3), pages 675-700, July.
    9. Chen, Daniel L. & Levonyan, Vardges & Yeh, Susan, 2016. "Policies Affect Preferences: Evidence from Random Variation in Abortion Jurisprudence," IAST Working Papers 16-58, Institute for Advanced Study in Toulouse (IAST).
    10. Theodore J. Joyce, 2009. "Abortion and Crime: A Review," NBER Working Papers 15098, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    11. John J. Donohue & Steven D. Levitt, 2019. "The Impact of Legalized Abortion on Crime over the Last Two Decades," NBER Working Papers 25863, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    12. 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, February.
    13. Durlauf, Steven N. & Navarro, Salvador & Rivers, David A., 2010. "Understanding aggregate crime regressions," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 158(2), pages 306-317, October.
    14. Crinò, Rosario & Immordino, Giovanni & Piccolo, Salvatore, 2019. "Marginal deterrence at work," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 166(C), pages 586-612.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • K42 - Law and Economics - - Legal Procedure, the Legal System, and Illegal Behavior - - - Illegal Behavior and the Enforcement of Law
    • K14 - Law and Economics - - Basic Areas of Law - - - Criminal Law
    • J24 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Human Capital; Skills; Occupational Choice; Labor Productivity

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