But a plausible story does not suffice as an answer; it needs to be tested against the data. And here we see one of the hidden strengths of Freakonomics: the powerful use of data analysis with cautionary emphasis on the important difference between correlation and causation. In the example of abortion and crime, the authors clearly and carefully explain the empirical support for causation. Crime declined sooner in the five states that legalized abortion prior to Roe v. Wade, states with the higher abortion rates experienced the larger declines in crime, and there is no link between abortion rates and crime prior to the late 1980s when the "missing" teenagers would have first started arriving. Not conclusive proof, perhaps, but compelling facts to support the premise.
Obviously, this explanation is emotionally and politically charged, and the authors make it clear that they are not advocating any policy. They are only answering the question of why crime went down.
One part of why I truly appreciate the authors, Donohue and Levitt, is that they accept when their data may not have strong solidarity. This is even admitted in the paper when they state that their data is less than ideal when comparing crime data of pre-Rowe v. Wade states against post Rowe v. Wade states. The authors state clearly that the data of pre-RvW states of only three years, this cannot be taken as solid fact. The second was that the states that legalized abortion before RvW continued to have high abortion rates. Because of the slow trend of abortion to crime rates, some data may not be able to be translatable. The effects from abortion will also not be seen from 1985 and before. Those whom would commit a crime are more in their late teens and early twenties. Infants are not likely (if at all) to commit any crimes. Table I shows crime trends on early-legalizing states against other states.
The “effective abortion rate” was used to compare the states. During the time frame of 1982 – 1997 for early legalizing states compared to the rest of the nation is 16.2% greater for murder, 30.4% greater for violent crime, and 35.3% greater for property crime. Around this time frame is when we start to see a negative trend in all three crime areas.
According to Andrade, the problem of infractions and criminality – which occur not only amongst the poorest, as people generally think or say, but also among members of the more privileged classes – cannot be reduced to a purely legal formula that conceives of it merely in terms of the desire to infringe the law, and that totally overlooks the sociological and psychological issues that have a bearing on the problem. “Prejudice exists to the extent that it is the result of ignorance; however, in reality, this is more than prejudice.”
He is a much-heralded scholar who studies the riddles of everyday life - from cheating and crime to sports and child-rearing - and whose conclusions turn the conventional wisdom on its head.
Instead of linking abortion with criminality, Kátia proposes emphasizing the issue of reproductive rights. These, she explains, are a set of rights and principles that provide guidance for dealing with issues that concern reproductive life, as formulated in the International Conference of Population and Development, held in Cairo, in 1994, and in the 4th World Conference on Women: Action for Equality, Development and Peace, held in Beijing, in 1995. “These conferences represent major progress regarding the treatment of issues linked to reproduction and sexuality, taking into account the principle of a lay State, the advocacy of citizenship and the intensification of democratic relations.”
Sexual and reproductive rights, she highlights, are one of mankind’s achievements and are also an ethical milestone in issues related to gender, reproduction, abortion, and family planning, among others. “Recognizing a person’s autonomy to make decisions about issues that regard his or her reproductive and sexual life were the key elements of the Cairo and Beijing platforms. These platforms were recognized by the international community and Brazil is one of their signatories, i.e., one of the countries that committed to incorporate these principles into its social and political agenda, as well as into its legal order.”
If these significant changes in crime rates were not predicted by the abortion model, could it simply be hotter than usual summers, changes in incarceration patterns do to overcrowding, or something else?
What Stephen Levitt's thoughts and research about abortion and the link to reduced crime say to me is that those who are most likely to become criminals come from extremely compromised beginnings, especially ones that are mired in poverty. It's a mistake if people get too caught up in abortion or race when considering this. Abortion is not the bad guy here, (or race, of course) even for those who are against abortion. If negative, impoverished conditions were greatly improved for those who are born into them, I believe that crime rate would drop through this, as well.
Post #2: Taylor Radford
Controlling for other effects – how does looking at early legalizers allow the authors to isolate abortion as the casual factor in the reduction in
the states that legalized abortion before RvW continued to have high abortion rates. Because of the slow trend of abortion to crime rates, some data