Did Legalized Abortion Lower Crime?
This paper examines the relationship between the legalization of abortion and subsequent decreases in crime. In a current study, researchers estimate that the legalization of abortion explains over half of the recent decline in national crime rates. The association is identified by correlating changes in crime with changes in the abortion ratio weighted by the proportion of the criminal population exposed to legalized abortion. In this paper, I use an alternative identification strategy. I analyze changes in homicide and arrest rates among teens and young adults born before and after 1970 in states that legalized abortion prior to Roe v. Wade. I compare these changes with variation in homicide and arrest rates among cohorts from the same period but who were unexposed to legalized abortion. I find little evidence to support the claim that legalized abortion caused the reduction in crime. I conclude that the association between abortion and crime is not causal, but most likely the result of confounding from unmeasured period effects such as changes in crack cocaine use and its spillover effects.
|Date of creation:||Jun 2001|
|Date of revision:|
|Publication status:||published as Joyce, Ted. "Did Legalized Abortion Lower Crime?" Journal of Human Resources XXXIX, 1 (2004): 1-28.|
|Contact details of provider:|| Postal: National Bureau of Economic Research, 1050 Massachusetts Avenue Cambridge, MA 02138, U.S.A.|
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"The Impact of Legalized Abortion on Crime,"
The Quarterly Journal of Economics,
Oxford University Press, vol. 116(2), pages 379-420.
- John Donohue & Steven Levitt, 2000. "The Impact of Legalized Abortion on Crime," NBER Working Papers 8004, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
- Donohue, John J. & Levitt, Steven D., 2000. "The Impact of Legalized Abortion on Crime," Berkeley Olin Program in Law & Economics, Working Paper Series qt00p599hk, Berkeley Olin Program in Law & Economics.
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