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Further Tests of Abortion and Crime: A Response to Donohue and Levitt (2001,2004, 2006)

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  • Theodore J. Joyce

Abstract

The association between legalized abortion and crime remains a contentious finding with major implications for social policy. In this paper, I replicate analyses of Donohue and Levitt (2001, 2004, 2006) in which they regress age-specific arrests and homicides on cohort-specific abortion rates. I find that the coefficient on the abortion rate in a regression of age-specific homicide or arrest rates has either the wrong sign or is small in magnitude and statistically insignificant when adjusted for serial correlation. Efforts to instrument for measurement error are flawed and attempts to identify cohort from selection effects are mis-specified. Nor are their findings robust to alternative identification strategies. A convincing test of abortion and crime should be based on an exogenous change in abortion that had a demonstrable effect on fertility. Thus, I analyze changes in abortion rates before and after Roe to identify changes in unwanted fertility. I use within-state comparison groups to net out hard to measure period effects. I also follow Donohue and Levitt (2004) and average the effects of abortion on crime over 15 to 20 years of the life of a cohort to lessen the impact of the crack epidemic. I find little support for a credible association between legalized abortion and crime.

Suggested Citation

  • Theodore J. Joyce, 2006. "Further Tests of Abortion and Crime: A Response to Donohue and Levitt (2001,2004, 2006)," NBER Working Papers 12607, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:12607
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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. 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. 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).
    6. 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.
    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. Christopher L. Foote & Christopher F. Goetz, 2005. "Testing economic hypotheses with state-level data: a comment on Donohue and Levitt (2001)," Working Papers 05-15, Federal Reserve Bank of Boston.
    9. Ted Joyce, 2001. "Did Legalized Abortion Lower Crime?," NBER Working Papers 8319, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    10. Joyce, T.J. & Mocan, N.H., 1990. "The impact of legalized abortion on adolescent childbearing in New York City," American Journal of Public Health, American Public Health Association, vol. 80(3), pages 273-278.
    11. Ted Joyce, 2004. "Further Tests of Abortion and Crime," NBER Working Papers 10564, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    12. Theodore J. Joyce & Naci H. Mocan, 1989. "The Impact of a Ban on Legalized Abortion on Adolescent Childbearing in New York City," NBER Working Papers 3002, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    13. Jonathan Klick & Sven Neelsen & Thomas Stratmann, 2009. "The Effect of Abortion Liberalization on Sexual Behavior: International Evidence," ifo Working Paper Series 79, ifo Institute - Leibniz Institute for Economic Research at the University of Munich.
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    Cited by:

    1. Nunley, John M. & Seals, Richard Alan & Zietz, Joachim, 2011. "Demographic change, macroeconomic conditions, and the murder rate: The case of the United States, 1934–2006," Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics), Elsevier, vol. 40(6), pages 942-948.
    2. Whitaker, Stephan, 2011. "The impact of legalized abortion on high school graduation through selection and composition," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 30(2), pages 228-246, April.

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    JEL classification:

    • K14 - Law and Economics - - Basic Areas of Law - - - Criminal Law
    • K4 - Law and Economics - - Legal Procedure, the Legal System, and Illegal Behavior

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    1. Further Tests of Abortion and Crime: A Response to Donohue and Levitt (2001,2004, 2006) (NBER 2006) in ReplicationWiki

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