Blog Post May 4
Each of the two articles are very closely related to Chapter 4 of Freakonomics. Each of the three sources takes a close look at the relationship between legalized abortion and the declining crime rates. Freakonomics along with the Levitt’s article, to no surprise, tell a very similar story. Each of these works was written by Levitt’s which describes the similarities in both context and structure. The third article which is a critique of Levitt’s study finds some problems with the methodology of Levitt’s paper.
Like Freakonomics in the Levitt article, finds that legalizing abortion has lead to a declining crime rate. His explanation for this assumption is that a decreasing number of unwanted births will lead to less criminal activity in the future. The reasoning behind this explanation is that children who are born against the will of their mother will receive less adequate parenting (prenatal care, single family homes, experiencing poverty) resulting in an increased probability of criminal activity in their future. (This assumption supported in the readings) This is described in Levitt’s paper as the possibility that abortion has a disproportionate effect on the births of those who are most at risk of engaging in criminal behavior. (Levitt, Donohue, 381) Levitt’s most sound description for the relationship between decreased criminal activities in relationship to legalized abortion is the overall decrease in cohort size following the legalization.
Within his study Levitt uses three different regressions to look at different relationships between abortion and crime. This first regression takes a look at abortion and crime on the national scale. Levitt is able to divide post-abortion legalization children into cohorts by age. This is what allows him to see the gradual effect the law has as time goes by. To do this he was able to design an index that reflected the effect of all previous abortions on crime in a particular year. (Levitt and Donohue, 394) He then tested early legalized states against the rest of the U.S. at a particular year. Finally he uses a panel analysis to relate state abortion rates after Roe v. Wade to state level changes in crime over the period from 1985 through 1997. (Levitt and Donohue, 400) For each of these test he found that they were significantly relevant for his hypothesis that legalized abortion has lead to declining crime rates.
Foote and Goetz look at the same relationship but find some potential problems in the way Levitt’s was analyzing data. Their thesis was set to evaluate if the declining crime rate was due to other factors besides abortion. Their first problem was that Levitt’s was missing a key set of regressors because of a computer coding error. Also the Levitt’s regressions do not model arrests in per capita terms. After correcting for the errors they found that the same regressions were not significant.
In my opinion, the Levitt’s article still holds weight. The Foote and Goetz article helps make this conclusion for me. Depending on how you manipulate the data you will get a different answer. In my opinion the Levitt ideas make absolute sense. The assumption that poverty stricken, single mothers, who may not be great parents may influence children to develop criminal habitats makes absolute logical sense to me.