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The Abortion-Crime Link: Evidence from England and Wales



We use panel data from 1983 to 1997 for the 42 police force areas in England and Wales to test the hypothesis that legalizing abortion contributes to lower crime rates. We provide an advance on previous work by focusing on the impact of possible endogeneity of effective abortion rates with respect to crime. Our use of U.K. data allows us to exploit regional differences in the provision of free abortions to identify abortion rates. When we use a similar model and estimation methodology, we are able to replicate the negative association between abortion rates and reported crime found by Donohue and Levitt for the U.S. However, when we allow for the potential endogeneity of effective abortion rates with respect to crime, we find no clear connection between the two.

Suggested Citation

  • Leo H. Kahane & David Paton & Rob Simmons, 2005. "The Abortion-Crime Link: Evidence from England and Wales," Occasional Papers 16, Industrial Economics Division.
  • Handle: RePEc:nub:occpap:16

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Raphael, Steven & Winter-Ember, Rudolf, 2001. "Identifying the Effect of Unemployment on Crime," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 44(1), pages 259-283, April.
    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. Reilly, Barry & Witt, Robert, 1996. "Crime, Deterrence and Unemployment in England and Wales: An Empirical Analysis," Bulletin of Economic Research, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 48(2), pages 137-159, April.
    4. Ted Joyce, 2004. "Did Legalized Abortion Lower Crime?," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 39(1).
    5. Steven D. Levitt, 1996. "The Effect of Prison Population Size on Crime Rates: Evidence from Prison Overcrowding Litigation," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 111(2), pages 319-351.
    6. 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).
    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. Entorf, Horst & Spengler, Hannes, 2000. "Socioeconomic and demographic factors of crime in Germany: Evidence from panel data of the German states," International Review of Law and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 20(1), pages 75-106, March.
    9. Eric D. Gould & Bruce A. Weinberg & David B. Mustard, 2002. "Crime Rates And Local Labor Market Opportunities In The United States: 1979-1997," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 84(1), pages 45-61, February.
    10. 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.
    11. Ziggy MacDonald, 2002. "Official Crime Statistics: Their Use and Interpretation," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 112(477), pages 85-106, February.
    12. Reilly, Barry & Robert Witt, 1992. "Crime, deterrence and unemployment in England and Wales: an empirical analysis," Discussion Papers in Economics 12/92, Department of Economics, University of Sussex.
    13. Mirko Draca & Stephen Machin, 2015. "Crime and Economic Incentives," Annual Review of Economics, Annual Reviews, vol. 7(1), pages 389-408, August.
    14. Carmichael, Fiona & Ward, Robert, 2001. "Male unemployment and crime in England and Wales," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 73(1), pages 111-115, October.
    15. Manuel Arellano & Stephen Bond, 1991. "Some Tests of Specification for Panel Data: Monte Carlo Evidence and an Application to Employment Equations," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 58(2), pages 277-297.
    16. Levin, Andrew & Lin, Chien-Fu & James Chu, Chia-Shang, 2002. "Unit root tests in panel data: asymptotic and finite-sample properties," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 108(1), pages 1-24, May.
    17. Karin Edmark, 2005. "Unemployment and Crime: Is There a Connection?," Scandinavian Journal of Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 107(2), pages 353-373, June.
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    Cited by:

    1. Ted Joyce, 2010. "Abortion and Crime: A Review," Chapters,in: Handbook on the Economics of Crime, chapter 18 Edward Elgar Publishing.
    2. François, Abel & Magni-Berton, Raul & Weill, Laurent, 2014. "Abortion and crime: Cross-country evidence from Europe," International Review of Law and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 40(C), pages 24-35.
    3. Angela K. Dills & Jeffrey A. Miron & Garrett Summers, 2010. "What Do Economists Know about Crime?," NBER Chapters,in: The Economics of Crime: Lessons for and from Latin America, pages 269-302 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    4. repec:iza:izawol:journl:y:2017:n:413 is not listed on IDEAS
    5. Theodore J. Joyce, 2009. "Abortion and Crime: A Review," NBER Working Papers 15098, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    6. W. Robert Reed, 2017. "Replication in labor economics," IZA World of Labor, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA), pages 413-413, December.
    7. Todd D. Kendall & Robert Tamura, 2010. "Unmarried Fertility, Crime, and Social Stigma," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 53(1), pages 185-221, February.

    More about this item


    abortion; crime; fertility;

    JEL classification:

    • K42 - Law and Economics - - Legal Procedure, the Legal System, and Illegal Behavior - - - Illegal Behavior and the Enforcement of Law
    • I38 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Welfare, Well-Being, and Poverty - - - Government Programs; Provision and Effects of Welfare Programs
    • J13 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Fertility; Family Planning; Child Care; Children; Youth

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