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

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Listed:
  • 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.

Suggested Citation

  • 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).
  • Handle: RePEc:uwp:jhriss:v:39:y:2004:i:1:p29-49
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    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. 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.
    2. Ted Joyce, 2004. "Did Legalized Abortion Lower Crime?," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 39(1).
    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. 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.
    5. Theodore Joyce, 1987. "The impact of induced abortion on black and white birth outcomes in the United States," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 24(2), pages 229-244, May.
    6. 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.
    7. 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.
    8. Cristian Pop-Eleches, 2006. "The Impact of an Abortion Ban on Socioeconomic Outcomes of Children: Evidence from Romania," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 114(4), pages 744-773, August.
    9. 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.
    10. 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.
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    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
    • I38 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Welfare, Well-Being, and Poverty - - - Government Programs; Provision and Effects of Welfare Programs

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