The Mayor of Bridgeton, New Jersey, Albert Kelly, recently published an op-ed, where he used a debunked, racist argument to support his position on legalized abortion. Kelly, writing in NJ.com, states, “But, for all of the discussion about crime and why it has dropped to historic lows, something is often overlooked by the public that is just as startling: it’s the apparent connection between legal abortion and reductions in crime.
In 2001, economists Steve Levitt and John Donohue published a paper to the effect that legalized abortion — following the Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade decision — was a factor accounting for roughly half the drop in crime nationwide a generation later. In 2005, Levitt and journalist Stephen Dubner published the book “Freakonomics,” which exposed this research to a mass audience.”
Kelly’s reference is to a debunked, racist theory pushed by Levitt and Donohue, which logically ends with us subsidizing abortions for poor families and single mothers. The problem with their theory is that it has been torn apart by others, including one academic who found a severe flaw in their work. What an embarrassment to be a University of Chicago economist, support abortion, and get caught making serious mathematical errors.
Here are some of the key errors made:
- Levitt and Donohue made serious coding errors and failed to account for inter-state travel (i.e. people being born in one state and having an abortion in another state).
- The data they had was not comprehensive enough for them to be able to conduct this research.
- A paper by the Boston Federal Reserve also noted that Levitt and Donohue did not properly take into account the crime rates among age cohorts. This is important because it is basically the whole premise of their paper; that the “unwanted children” were being killed off through legalized abortion, so in the 90s, when those kids would have been teenagers and young adults, there were fewer crimes being committed.
- Levitt and Donohue recently redid their study, but relied on many of the same debunked methods they used earlier, showing a serious lack of regard for academic concern, and more of a zeal for promoting abortion.
- In fact, as Michael New summarizes in National Review, “between 1976 and 1998, murder rates for the oldest age groups steadily decreased, while the murder rates for younger age cohorts — which eventually began to include people born after Roe — increased. Lott and Whitely also found that murder-rate trends among young people did not vary much between the states that legalized abortion early and the states where abortion became legal only after Roe.” In other words, boom goes their “theory.”
- A study by a pair of economists found that legalized abortion possibly increased crime, by encouraging single parenthood, because sex was divorced from pregnancy and marriage.
- A study in Romania, which Levitt and Donohue cited as a counter-example, because at one point abortion and birth control were illegal, found that crime and abortion there were not linked in the way Levitt and Donohue believed. The study concluded that while crime did rise when abortion and birth control were made illegal, crime rates (crime per capita) did not. This makes sense; in any year of births, some will grow up to be upstanding citizens, some will grow up to be lifelong criminals, and others will be somewhere in the middle; committing stupid acts when they are younger, and then straightening up as they age.
Racist and eugenics arguments are central to Planned Parenthood’s messaging. But they don’t belong in academia or in government.