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Abortion and Crime: Unwanted Children and Out-of-Wedlock Births

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  • John Lott

    (American Enterprise Institute)

  • John Whitley

    (University of Adelaide, School of Economics)

Abstract

Abortion may prevent the birth of "unwanted" children, who would have relatively small investments in human capital and a higher probability of crime. On the other hand, some research suggests that legalizing abortion increases out-of-wedlock births and single parent families, which implies the opposite impact on investments in human capital and thus crime. The question is: what is the net impact? We find evidence that legalizing abortion increased murder rates by around about 0.5 to 7 percent. Previous estimates are shown to suffer from not directly linking the cohorts who are committing crime with whether they had been born before or after abortion was legal.

Suggested Citation

  • John Lott & John Whitley, "undated". "Abortion and Crime: Unwanted Children and Out-of-Wedlock Births," Yale Law School John M. Olin Center for Studies in Law, Economics, and Public Policy Working Paper Series yale_lepp-1018, Yale Law School John M. Olin Center for Studies in Law, Economics, and Public Policy.
  • Handle: RePEc:bep:yaloln:yale_lepp-1018
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    File URL: http://lsr.nellco.org/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1018&context=yale/lepp
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Bronars, Stephen G & Grogger, Jeff, 1994. "The Economic Consequences of Unwed Motherhood: Using Twin Births as a Natural Experiment," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 84(5), pages 1141-1156, December.
    2. 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.
    3. 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.
    4. 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.
    5. Ted Joyce, 2004. "Did Legalized Abortion Lower Crime?," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 39(1).
    6. 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.
    7. Lott, John Jr., 1987. "Juvenile delinquency and education: A comparison of public and private provision," International Review of Law and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 7(2), pages 163-175, December.
    8. 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.
    9. Donohue, John J, III & Siegelman, Peter, 1998. "Allocating Resources among Prisons and Social Programs in the Battle against Crime," The Journal of Legal Studies, University of Chicago Press, vol. 27(1), pages 1-43, January.
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