Friday, June 3, 2011

Abortions = lower crime rates: refuted again, in the Globe!


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James Alan Fox, a criminologist who teaches at Northeastern, has an excellent article on (the Boston Globe).  Recently he wrote about crime rates being down over the long term and, especially, recently.  He received many emails with thoughts as to why.  The relevant part of the article is quoted below.  Isn't it nice when facts trump agendas?  Please read it so that you will have the facts the next time someone tries to claim that abortions cut down on crimes.  Anne

"More than a few of the e-mailers, however, were riders on the abortion-crime link bandwagon. First articulated a decade ago, economists John Donohue and Steven Levitt argued that following the 1973 decision in Roe v. Wade, thousands of unwanted fetuses were aborted instead of being born into less-than-ideal environments, thereby producing two decades later a reduction in the pool of at-risk, violence-prone individuals.

In a 2001 paper published in the Quarterly Journal of Economics, Donohue and Levitt developed a complex set of statistical models to reach this bold claim:

"These estimates suggest that legalized abortion is a primary explanation for the large drops in murder, property crime, and violent crime that our nation has experienced over the last decade. Indeed, legalized abortion may account for as much as one-half of the overall crime reduction."

Despite persuasive logic regarding a reduction in the number of children born to circumstances that would place them at-risk for growing into criminality, the significance of this effect appears to have been grossly overstated. For example, nearly 60% of the decline in murder since 1990 involved perpetrators ages 25 and older-individuals who would have been born prior to the landmark abortion decision. As shown in the figure below, there were substantial reductions during the 1990s in homicides committed by older age groups, especially those in the 25-34 year-old age range.

homicides chart

The abortion-crime link also cannot account for the transient surge in youth homicide during the late 1980s, if not for which the 1990s would not have witnessed such a sizable decline. The rise and then fall in youth homicide before and then after 1990 has much more to do with fast changing patterns of drug trade, gang activity and illegal gun supply than a sudden shift in abortion policy.

Finally, the abortion-crime hypothesis cannot explain the large drop in murder and other violent crime from the first six months of 2009 to the corresponding months of 2010. In fact, nothing really can.

The latest crime figures from the FBI are preliminary, as labeled. More time and more data will hopefully help us all to move beyond mere conjecture toward a firmer understanding of the reasons for recent crime trends as well as to determine their permanence. The lower that crime rates plunge, and the more that budgets are cut for crime prevention and crime control initiatives, the greater the likelihood that crime rates will rebound. At some point, unfortunately, we may at some point look back and see these as the good old days. "

Author's note: You can follow me on twitter at @jamesalanfox for notifications of new blog postings. Also, you can find me on the Web at or contact me by e-mail at






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1 comment:

  1. It is clear from the age and homicide graph that the crime rate increases suddenly one the person hits 18 years of age. There is a lots of psychology behind the crimes. Once the person becomes 18 he starts a feeling of freedom, a freedom to commit any crime. That is why the graph level is so high for people between 18 and 24. This graph goes down with the maturity of the people (in terms of age).