Both Chapter 4 of Freakonomics and “The Impact of Legalized Abortion on Crime” article address the correlation between abortion and crime rates. According to the study, legalized abortion is the primary explanation for the large drops in crime rates during the 1990s. While I was a bit hesitant to accept this argument at first, Donohue and Levitt offered a good explanation on why this relationship may occur. First, an increase in abortion will decrease the number the young people being born, which means there are fewer individuals able to commit crimes. Therefore, crime rates would drop on the logic that there are simply less individuals to commit crimes. Second, individuals who receive abortions generally do so with good reasons. If an individual has an abortion, then we can assume that the child would not be as wanted and may be raised in poor conditions. If there are less young adults growing up in such conditions, then they are more unlikely to commit crimes and crime rates would drop.
Donohue and Levitt are able to support the relationship between legalized abortion and crime rates through a series of regressions. I was most interested in the finding that the states that legalized abortion before Roe v. Wade experienced greater drops in crime rates than all other states. It was also interesting to see that states with the most legalized abortions saw the largest drops in crime rates. Donohue and Levitt ultimately reach the conclusion that legalized abortion may account for as much as 50% of the overall crime reduction of the 1990s. While this is certainly a shocking statistic, it may give an indication that there are some issues in the regression analysis performed by Donohue and Levitt.
Foote and Goetz expressed their own concerns with the study and suggested that there were measurement and coding errors in the regression model used by Donohue and Levitt. Due to these errors and biases, the relationship between abortion and crime rates is actually not significant. However, Donahue and Levitt respond to this comment and offer a regression that corrects for the problems and finds a significant relationship, but not as strong as the initial regressions. However, even with these corrections, Foote and Goetz’s own regression analysis is unable to find significant evidence that legalizing abortion has caused a reduction in crime.
While the argument used by Donohue and Levitt makes logical sense, I am still a bit wary that abortion played such a large role in the drop in crime rates during the 1990s. While I am more accepting of a correlation between the two variables, I’m hesitant to conclude that legalizing abortion caused crime rates to drop, especially with so many errors found by Foote and Goetz. There is also the issue that abortion could be considered a crime in itself, which would completely alter the results and possibly change the direction of the relationship between abortion and crime.