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Measurement Error, Legalized Abortion, and the Decline in Crime: A Response to Foote and Goetz (2005)

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  • John J. Donohue
  • Steven D. Levitt

Abstract

Donohue and Levitt (2001) argue that the legalization of abortion in the United States in the 1970s played an important role in explaining the observed decline in crime approximately two decades later. Foote and Goetz (2005) challenge the results presented in one of the tables in that original paper. In this reply, we regretfully acknowledge the omission of state-year interactions in the published version of that table, but show that their inclusion does not alter the qualitative results (or their statistical significance), although it does reduce the magnitude of the estimates. When one uses a more carefully constructed measure of abortion (e.g. one that takes into account cross-state mobility, or doing a better job of matching dates of birth to abortion exposure), however, the evidence in support of the abortion-crime hypothesis is as strong or stronger than suggested in our original work.

Suggested Citation

  • John J. Donohue & Steven D. Levitt, 2006. "Measurement Error, Legalized Abortion, and the Decline in Crime: A Response to Foote and Goetz (2005)," NBER Working Papers 11987, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:11987
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Elizabeth Oltmans Ananat & Jonathan Gruber & Phillip Levine, 2007. "Abortion Legalization and Life-Cycle Fertility," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 42(2).
    2. Gary S. Becker, 1974. "Crime and Punishment: An Economic Approach," NBER Chapters, in: Essays in the Economics of Crime and Punishment, pages 1-54, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. Ted Joyce, 2004. "Did Legalized Abortion Lower Crime?," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 39(1).
    4. 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).
    5. 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.
    6. Roland G. Fryer & Paul S. Heaton & Steven D. Levitt & Kevin M. Murphy, 2005. "Measuring the Impact of Crack Cocaine," NBER Working Papers 11318, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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    Cited by:

    1. Leo H. Kahane & David Paton & Rob Simmons, 2008. "The Abortion–Crime Link: Evidence from England and Wales," Economica, London School of Economics and Political Science, vol. 75(297), pages 1-21, February.
    2. Julio Cáceres-Delpiano & Eugenio Giolito, 2012. "The Impact of Unilateral Divorce on Crime," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 30(1), pages 215-248.
    3. Gary Shoesmith, 2010. "Four factors that explain both the rise and fall of US crime, 1970-2003," Applied Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 42(23), pages 2957-2973.
    4. William Anderson & Martin T. Wells, 2008. "Numerical Analysis in Least Squares Regression with an Application to the Abortion‐Crime Debate," Journal of Empirical Legal Studies, John Wiley & Sons, vol. 5(4), pages 647-681, December.

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    JEL classification:

    • K4 - Law and Economics - - Legal Procedure, the Legal System, and Illegal Behavior

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