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

  • John Lott

    (American Enterprise Institute)

  • John Whitley

    (University of Adelaide, School of Economics)

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    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.

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    File URL: http://lsr.nellco.org/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1018&context=yale/lepp
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    Paper provided by Yale Law School John M. Olin Center for Studies in Law, Economics, and Public Policy in its series Yale Law School John M. Olin Center for Studies in Law, Economics, and Public Policy Working Paper Series with number yale_lepp-1018.

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    Handle: RePEc:bep:yaloln:yale_lepp-1018
    Contact details of provider: Web page: http://www.law.yale.edu/outside/html/home/index.htm

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    1. 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.
    2. 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 1141-56, December.
    3. 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 771-98, October.
    4. Michael Grossman & Theodore J. Joyce, 1991. "Unobservables, Pregnancy Resolutions, and Birthweight Production Functions in New York City," NBER Working Papers 2746, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    5. 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.
    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. Ted Joyce, 2004. "Did Legalized Abortion Lower Crime?," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 39(1).
    8. 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.
    9. John Donohue & Steven Levitt, 2000. "The Impact of Legalized Abortion on Crime," NBER Working Papers 8004, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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