General Question

ETpro's avatar

With Republicans succeeding in making abortion impossible in many red states, will we see a spike in crime in 15 years or so?

Asked by ETpro (34563points) December 3rd, 2013

Steven D. Levitt’s 2004 paper, “Understanding Why Crime Fell in the 1990s: Four Factors That Explain the Decline and Six That Do Not” published in the Journal of Economic Perspectives; offered a unique, unexpected explanation for at least part of what caused the violent crime curve to suddenly reverse course in the USA. After 40 years of a steady and disturbing climb, beginning in the 1990s violent crime suddenly begin to drop, and not just drop but plummet. Levitt’s thoughts and statistical analysis of this trend and other interesting issues went into a book he coauthored with writer, Stephen J. Dubner in 2005, Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explored the Hidden Side of Everything. I strongly recommend the book if you haven’t read it. It’s full of surprises and rebukes to “common wisdom” and sure to make you think. But back to the question regarding Levitt’s thoughts and statistical analysis of the link between crime and abortions.

By the early 1990’s, violent crimes of all kinds had been on a steady increase for most of the last 40 years, and all the “experts” were warning that unless we deployed a vast army of police equipped with new powers to search and seize without warrant, things would soon get much, much worse. But we did not deploy an army of super-cops armed with powers to shred the Constitution, and unlike what all the experts predicted, crime did not double yet again in the decade leading up to the new millennium. Instead it fell, and rather dramatically. What’s more, all forms of violent crimes fell. It wasn’t just the murder rate; it was also assaults with a deadly weapon, aggravated assaults, armed robberies, domestic violence, kidnapping, and rape. All violent crime declined and rapidly.

Much to the anger of abortion foes, Levitt attributes most of this drop to an unmarried Dallas teenager named Norma McCorvey. It was her legal challenge, as a pregnant, unmarried teen; to the Texas state prohibitions against abortion that eventually worked its was to the Supreme Court Of The United States. By then, her name had been replaced by a pseudonym, Jane Roe. And the SCOTUS’ opinion in Roe v. Wade changed life in America for women facing an unwanted pregnancy. Whatever your feelings on the matter, you have to admit that criminalizing abortion impacted women who were poor, young and ill-prepared for parenting far more than it did affluent, adult women who could afford to travel and get abortions where they were legal, and who could handle parenting should they decide to carry the baby to term. And the women who suddenly didn’t have to give birth when they were nowhere near able to care for a child were the women most likely to make poor parents. They were the women most likely to ignore, mistreat or even abandon a child. They were the women most likely to be drunk or on drugs, and to have violent boyfriends in their households. They were the women most likely to raise young criminals. A sudden drop of up to 1.5 million likely new criminals being born each year made a difference in crime. A whole generational cohort of likely new criminals didn’t get born.

Levitt applies the statistical analysis tools of economics to look at the other factors affecting crime as well. Some of the drop in crime can be chalked up to more police on the streets, but not much. Some may be tracked to more innovative policing, but again, not much. Gun law proponents claimed gun laws did it, but the effect of those can be shown to be negligible at best, and in some cases counterproductive. Other proposed factors can be shown by statistical analysis to have no relation to the crime rate’s drop.

Like it or not; safe, legal abortion led to a very substantial drop in violent crime. So it’s a safe bet that making abortion impossible for the young and poor women least able to properly care for a newborn baby will drive violent crime back up. It will likely drive it way up. Is that reason enough to keep abortion safe and legal? And if is, in your opinion, not reason enough; what steps should we take to deal with the unintended consequences of re-criminalizing abortion?

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47 Answers

pleiades's avatar

With the rise of the internet and so much entertainment I don’t believe so. However, I think they’ll still have their “Honorable, Patriotic” crop of people to have when it comes to military recruiting.

JLeslie's avatar

When my dad read Freakonomics, which discussed this very issue (Levitt is one of the authors) and showed the correlation of legalizing abortion and crime going down, it finally convinced him abortion is just fine and dandy for society. Previously, he was more of the mindset that people have to live with their “mistakes.” I hate calling a baby a mistake, but that is the best word to describe my father’s mindset. He, being a sociologist, is always interested on how policy and social mores impact society. Once he saw the research it was enough for him to let those young girls out of having to carry the child.

I personally don’t think we can look at pregnancy and abortion like that, no statistic is going to cause me to abort or not abort. But, we aren’t really talking about whether an individual will abort because they worry their kid will be a criminal, this is about whether there will be a spike in crime, because fewer abortions happen. Really, it doesn’t have to be a focus on abortion, it can be a focus simply on babies born into poverty, addicted parents, or mental health issues. If we do a better job at preventing the pregnancies, which to me means offering free birth control, we can reduce pregnancies and births also.

No one is forced to have an abortion in America (unless it is a boyfriend or parent putting pressure on the person, but the majority of abortions the woman wants one. It certainly is not forced by the state.

Some Republicans the last few years have attacked planned parenthood and implied or outright have said that the founder wants to limit births of certain people. In my opinion the target was for black people to feel democrats want to reduce black numbers through what Republicans called eugenics.

I don’t know if I buy into abortion actually causing a decrease in crime, but I do care that Republicans are chipping away at a woman’s ability to abort and that they also put up obstacles to make birth control more readily available for women.

Let’s say crime will go up, will Republicans care? That is what I am really curious about. My bet is Republicans won’t even entertain the hypothetical question.

DWW25921's avatar

That’s a very interesting question. It may have some merit but I doubt it’s that simple. Factors resulting in crimes are abundant and narrowing it down to a single issue may seem simplistic. Personally, I would doubt it but I just don’t know.

This reminds me of a man I was talking to a while back that mentioned that strict gun laws create gun crimes… I thought he was nuts… Than I looked it up! Wow! I mean, the numbers are really undeniable. Armed citizens tend to curb gun crimes! I’m a little embarrassed that I didn’t know that.

You come up with interesting stuff! I’m going to follow this question and see if I learn something!

josie's avatar


As mentioned before, Margaret Sanger, an early and important proponent of legalized abortion and the founder of Planned Parenthood, which is the country’s largest provider of abortions, was also a well-known eugenicist whose writings reveal the historic connection between abortion on demand and population control of “indesirables”.

Ruth Bader Ginsberg alluded to this fact, in a revealing, but often-unreported quote in the New York Times Magazine in 2009. Justice Ginsberg, referring to Roe vs. Wade, said, “Frankly I had thought that at the time Roe was decided, there was concern about population growth and particularly growth in populations that we don’t want to have too many of.”

If we grant that people who raise the crime rate are undesirable, then they are probably included in the population that Sanger called undesirable and Ginsberg doesn’t want too many of.

Thus your premise is reasonable.

whitenoise's avatar

My understanding is that Levitt’s claims to abortion and crime in the end wasn’t backed by the data.

I would have to look into it again, but he I seem to remember he admitted that this particular claim may have been a bit unsubstantiated.

Nevertheless… There are more than enough reasons to expect that this anti abortion movement will create a lot of misery.

KNOWITALL's avatar

Abortion does not discriminate based on personality and crosses economic lines, the child has absolutely no rights whatsoever to pro-abortion supporters.

You could just as easily kill the next Democratic leader or the future discoverer of the cure for cancer.

flutherother's avatar

I’m in favour of abortion where would be parents don’t want the child but I am not in favour of abortion as a way of reducing crime. That sounds too much like eugenics. The fact that there is a correlation in the statistics doesn’t mean there is a real connection.

JLeslie's avatar

@KNOWITALL Or, be killing a criminal. If you read my answer you see I am not saying I fully buy into the abortion criminal data, but what about the question I asked towards the end of my answer? If it is true crime will go up, is it reason to keep abortion legal? Let’s say we can narrow it to who is most likey to birth criminals, do we want to provide the opportunity for them to be able to terminate their pregnancies? Rather, do we want to prevent them from having the opportunity to abort? I know where you stand pretty much, but I think you probably also know how most pro-life republicans think, do you think they care if bunches of babies born into difficult circumstances increases crime in the country? If it does.

Cities where crime is high are just awful to me. It’s awful to feel like you have to be super aware when you walk down the street. I felt like that in Memphis when I lived there, and I remember feeling like that in NYC in the late 70’s and 80’s.

Jaxk's avatar

Wow, abortion is good because it kills off the off-spring of the poor and indigent that are more likely to be criminals. Kind of executing the undesirables before they become undesirable. It makes me wonder if we’re going the wrong way on a lot of this new legislation. Healthcare for the poor is only making healthy criminals. Food stamps, same thing. Maybe we should be heading back to vagrancy laws and debtors prison. That would certainly move us in the right direction.

MadMadMax's avatar

That’s the historical rule.

Of course the need is still there and the source sadly will be filled by unskilled – it’ll go from nurses maknig a buck on the side for people she or he knows, and ultimately to the old back-alley abortions. But you can’t stop abortions if someone is old enough to control their own lives and poor, they will find a way to at least try – even if it kills them.

And those women with money will always be able to hop a plane. Or take their teenager to a free-state and nobody will be the wiser. There are still open-minded people in red states.

So it’s a law that further attacks the poor, the weak, the young.

. The wealthy retain their rights to choose. Freedom in the US means freedom for the wealthy.

KNOWITALL's avatar

@JLeslie Or since the prison’s are made up primarily of minorities, we could stop encouraging child birth in low income or black/ brown families by getting rid of the tax break based on number of children. Pretty cold-blooded when I bring race into it right?

Obviously I’m no proponent of abortion in any way, shape or form, I’m all for education, abstinence and ditching those tax breaks, but I could turn this into a race issue very easily based on readily available data from prisons.

SOME pro-life Republicans feel that life is a gift from God and should be treated as such. Most people I know are all about personal responsibility, which means controlling your body and reproductive systems.

I’m not saying abortion should be outlawed because I do believe women should have the freedom to make decisions over their bodies themselves, but I have a problem with people judging the unborn based on their parents financial situations at the time of inception. To me, that’s just wrong, and I could list many important people who were born out of wedlock or into poor families who rose to do great things that benefit all of us.

And just so we’re all on the same page, there are plenty of white collar criminals and rich kids that grow up to be criminals because of their sense of ‘entitlement’.

JLeslie's avatar

@KNOWITALL Just to make sure I am not misinterpreted, I never suggested we should encourage women to abort because their children might become criminals, I am only talking about having abortion available to women who want one. Even if the stats are we can predict what percentage of people will be criminals growing up in certain circumstances, I have my doubts it is ever the majority of people who are criminals in any given population. We can’t say, or I would never say, abort or don’t get pregnant, because your kid has a 1 in 100 chance of being a criminal (made up stat).

I do encourage people to consider their financial and emotional situation before they have children as a general statement.

For sure the middle and upper class have criminals too. Poverty was not the only thing mentioned, so was addiction, and some other things, and even the best most stable parents can have a kid that is a wreck. My SIL’s exhusband’s son is an alcoholic and was stealing from everyone in the house. Their combined income was easily upper middle class. Look at Maddoff, weathy, and still had to steal money to get more wealth. Although, probably people more focus on violent crime as the most worrisome concern.

I think we should look at the reasons for why we have criminals in society, but to say poverty creates criminals is to not really look at what the causes of criminal behavior are. Maybe Republicans should consider addressing poverty itself. No one should be living in impovershed unsafe neighborhoods in America in my opinion. We need to fix that, not focus on terminating pregnancies.

I hate dividing anything by race, but there are cultural things we can look at within groups to figure out why one group is more successful than another, however we are measuring success. I think socioeconomics is a huge influence, and race really is meaningless. I think it is very tricky. Living in Memphis I fiund it quite depressing blacks and whites were so divided by economics and culture and their experience was very different. My friends where I grew up didn’t have that experience regardless of race.

MadMadMax's avatar

Roe vs Wade was never used as encouragement.

Women if they are equal under the law have the right to consider what is best for themselves, their futures, their health, their relationships, their living breathing children who come first in my book.

The old adage is very true. If men had to give birth – carry it for 9 months, they couldn’t provide for mentally or physically or just didn’t want – this would never be an issue.

They would decide themselves and there would no question it was their right..

But since women are the ones that have to deal with this, they are second class citizens and their freedom to judge can be blocked by people based on religious convictions these women do not share at all. And that is not freedom of religion or freedom from religion.

JLeslie's avatar

@MadMadMax I am not sure it is just a gender issue, but I do think there is some irony in the fact that being born into poverty raises a person’s chance of staying in poverty for the parent and the child and Republicans want to discourage abortion. Sometimes I think it is to keep groups down. That it actually is racist. i know most religious Republicans truly feel it is killing a baby, but there is something else in the background for those who are leaders in my opinion. Just like suggesting getting rid of public schools. No public schools and the majority of education will be religious most likely and there will be whole groups of people not educated at all.

KNOWITALL's avatar

@JLeslie As a child born to a poor single mother, I turned out surprisingly well. I don’t even have a criminal record and even my driving record is perfect-lol

And This (although I don’t believe in generalizations of any group of people because it’s simply not accurate.):
The poorest states, based on per capita income, are, from first to last: Mississippi, Arkansas, Tennessee, West Virginia, Louisiana, Montana, South Carolina, Kentucky, Alabama, and North Carolina. Of these, exactly half—Arkansas, Kentucky, Montana, North Carolina, and West Virginia—have Democratic governors and three have Democratic majorities in the lower house of their legislature, so these state governments can hardly be classified as completely Republican. On the other hand, only North Carolina voted for Obama in 2008, so in that sense, these states may be leaning Republican.

JLeslie's avatar

@KNOWITALL The southern states usually get Democrats in because of their large black populations. On social issues like abortion, a large oercentage of the ademovrats in those states are against abortion, because of religion. I think Republicans feel it is one of their shots with black people in the south, the social issues. Abortion, gay marriage, many black people vote with the republicans on those issues. Politics is very divided by race in the parts of the south where I lived with some exceptions to the rule of course.

KNOWITALL's avatar

@JLeslie Being born into poverty increases a person’s chance of staying in poverty, but one of the main tenets of Repubican dogma is that we are all able to overcome and achieve success in America.

So you’re implying that Republicans use religion to manipulate black votes? How ever did Obama win then?

Seek's avatar

I’ll make my answer personal.

I am the eldest of three siblings.
I was born to a woman who never wanted children, who doesn’t know how to love people, and systematically physically and emotionally abused me for over 20 years. Someone once reported her for child neglect, which was dropped because Child Services assumed my work was my mother’s. I took over raising my siblings and caring for the household at about ten years old. I suffer from depression, social anxiety, and low self-worth. I won’t go into the issues of my brother and sister.

I was my mother’s fourth pregnancy. She kept me because my father – a Catholic – and his adoptive-mother – a very strict Catholic – were utterly ecstatic at learning of her pregnancy.

All I can say is that I am so glad that those other three pregnancies didn’t result in three more unwanted people for my mother to have abused throughout her life. All the good I can claim came directly from spending the first nine years of my life with my father. Those other babies wouldn’t have stood a chance.

JLeslie's avatar

@KNOWITALL Obama is black and a democrat. Most black people are democrats. Republicans are trying with religion to sway blacks, but it doesn’t work well. I have republican black facebook friends in Memphis who post links about how black people used to be republicans and republicans got rid of Jim Crow laws. They buy into the whole right wing schtick, and they talk down to other black people in my opinion. Not all black republicans, I mean the ones who buy into the whole thing. A black personal real life friend of mine (he is from the islands, came to America in his teens) typically votes republican, he works in the pharma industry, and that industry is diehard republicans down to you better keep it a secret if your voters card says democrat on it, they might pass you over for promotions. I spent time working at Glaxo in NC and some managers actually had political paraphanalia in their offices, which I think is innappropriate for work. Anyway, my black republican friend dnd did vote for Obama the first time, not sure if he did the second.

KNOWITALL's avatar

@Seek_Kolinahr With all due respect. Isn’t it true that your mother and father could have controlled their reproductive abilities if they wanted to?

And forgive me for asking, but even as your life sucked then and still sucks sometimes, aren’t you glad you had the chance to live and have your son? Your son has just as much of a chance as anyone else to succeed in this country, whether born to you or Gloria Vanderbuilt.

That’s all I’m saying. If we look at it from the degree of possiblity of success, I personally would NEVER discount your son as being unworthy of being born. I can’t believe people think that way honestly.

@JLeslie I will agree that should not be in the work place.

Seek's avatar

@KNOWITALL She did control her ability. Three times. She might have gone for the fourth and saved all three of us having to grow up with her. It wouldn’t have inconvenienced me in the slightest.

JLeslie's avatar

@KNOWITALL Not sure why you chose Gloria Vanderbilt’s (you may not know one of her sons threw himself off of a building in front of her. The other is Cooper Anderson of course) but how can you say all children have equal access? Money in our society does provide access. I agree @Seek_Kolinahr‘s son or even @Seek_Kolinahr herself could do some revolutionary wonderful thing for society and life as we know it, but money makes some things a whole lot easier. Having said that, sometimes I think having a little bit of struggle helps kids want to grow up and prosper and not take things for granted.

Seek's avatar

@KNOWITALL I’d also say that since we have well over 300 million people in this country, posting a list of 20 people who “made their own billions” as an example of what “anyone” can do is a bit silly.

1. Bill Gates: “His family was upper middle class”

2. Lakshmi Mittal: This entry is bullshit. He was born to a bigwig in the steel business in India, and with his father had the means to open a steel business in Indonesia when India put a stop to mining.

3. Larry Ellison: adopted by a middle class family in Chicago – He was involved in inventing computer mainframes. Not exactly something that can happen every day.

4 through 6 are all retail giants, which is mostly luck.

7 and 8 are Russian businessmen, and reading their Wiki pages leaves me more confused as to where they got their money than I was when I started.

9: Sheldon Adelson: He worked at a young age selling newspapers on local street corners and owned his first business by the time he was 12. Can’t do either of those anymore.

10: Steve Jobs: Adopted by people who wanted him and took care of him. Also, he invented friggin’ Apple Computers. Again, not something that can happen every day.

12: Zuckerberg went to motherfucking Harvard.

13. Ed Liddy. Scumbag.

14 through 20 are all CEOs of giant multinational corporations. They are not “self made billionaires” they are overpaid businesspersons who make their money on the backs of the rest of the corporation.

KNOWITALL's avatar

@JLeslie I LOVE Anderson Cooper and the Vanderbuilt’s have fascinated me a long time.

@Seek_Kolinahr I’m just saying that your child, as well as myself, may have to struggle a bit to be successful in this world, but it’s achievable. I don’t think being born and raised poor is a valid excuse to terminate a life.

Seek's avatar

You’re not terminating a life. You’re stopping it before it begins.

You’ll note none of the people on that list have a background that includes “Raised (more or less) by a 17 year old prostitute who sold her food stamps for meth.”

YARNLADY's avatar

Thanks for sharing, but personal stories do not prove or disprove the statistical evidence.

However, I do not believe that abortion is effectively outlawed, but rather that Federal funds cannot be used to pay for them. There are still many other ways to pay.

Seek's avatar

No one has said that it has been made illegal, but that there are groups in this country who would make criminalization a goal.

My response was directed mostly toward @KNOWITALL and @JLeslie ‘s portion of the discussion.

The facts don’t lie: Unwanted kids are unhappy, uncared for, and do not become Bill Gates. Most don’t make it to “Walmart Greeter” unless they’re lucky enough to be separated from their parents and not get lost in the foster care system.

ARE_you_kidding_me's avatar

@ETpro I can’t believe you posted this. Advocating abortion to reduce a future increase in crime that these unborn children will commit because they’ll on average have bad parents? Views on abortion aside this is VERY, VERY dangerous thinking on several levels.

JLeslie's avatar

Wanting the baby is the key to me. Wanting to be a parent. Regardless of poor or rich.

@ARE_you_kidding_me This is a well known evaluation of data regarding abortion and crime statistics.

Seek's avatar


It’s more keeping abortion legal, available, and affordable so people who would be bad parents (and most know it) have access to the services, so they aren’t raising unwanted kids into a life of neglect and eventual crime.

MadMadMax's avatar

I have no interest in WHO is permitted the freedom to choose. I just don’t want choice available only to the wealthy and that is what is happening.

Of course the wealthy could always take trip out of country to Canada or back in the 60’s it was Sweden.

The wealthy never have unwanted kids but then would be less apt to need the choice to get an abortion. They can always feed, care for and educate any kid they have. Poor people often work two jobs and still can’t pay the rent – and never see their kids.

JLeslie's avatar

@MadMadMax I don’t know if it is true that the poor need abortion more than the wealthy? Having money, but not wanting to be a parent, still feels like shit to the child.

ARE_you_kidding_me's avatar

@JLeslie Correlation does not imply causality. It’s not the unborn children’s fault. Social ills are the problem not future generations of would-be perpetrators. This is eugenics and we as humans are better than this. This crosses a fine line that puts all of society in danger. Personally I don’t have a problem with morning-after pill or whatever they call it. Mid/Late-term abortion is where I draw my line. You can’t convince me it’s not evil.

JLeslie's avatar

@ARE_you_kidding_me I said the same thing about the correlation. I still don’t understand what is wrong with asking the question or having a discussion about it.

I have a serious problem with people preventing “mid” abortion because too often the women who need one want their pregnancy and their baby and unfortunately have very bad news about the fetus or their own health. Two women I know who tried for months to get pregnant needed abortions in the 4th month when finding out the fetus had basically no brain. One of those women is pro-life, republican, Catholic. But, when she found out the baby had no chance she wanted it out as soon as possible. She had to drive two hours to a different state to get it done, because where we live they are not done after 14 weeks.

We who fight for legal safe abortion, keep it safe for those who think they are against it, but wind up wanting one. She wanted it, she could have continued with the pregnancy, probably birthed the baby and it would have died in minutes or hours. It would mean being pregnant with no chance of a viable baby, having to wait almost a year to be able to get pregnant again, which she and her husband really wanted, and taxing her body with the pregnancy, labor, and birth. We have a pro-choice jelly here who chose to continue her pregnancy in a very similar situation and the baby died in her arms shortly after birth. I just think women should have the choice.

Seek's avatar

It’s not eugenics.

No one is being forced to have an abortion.

It is being made available to people who don’t want children and have a birth control failure.

Along with available abortions, I would love to see government sponsored elective sterilizations and free Depo shots.

JLeslie's avatar

@Seek_Kolinahr Me too. I can’t understand why someone would be against paying for elective sterilization with tax money, except for Catholics maybe. The small group of Catholics who agree with the vVtican on it. Most catholics don’t. Most other religions, or I should say most people, are ok with preventing pregnancy whatever religion they are.

ARE_you_kidding_me's avatar

@JLeslie Yes, extremes like that are the exception and exceptions should be made. Perfectly healthy fetuses and pregnancies exceptions should be very rare.

Seek's avatar

They’d be a lot rarer if people had access to birth control regardless of their financial situation. Or hell, their personal situation.

Apart from the fact that battered women need much more help than birth control, being able to hide one trip to the health department and one injection every three years or so is a lot easier than hiding trips to the doctor every year and a pill packet every day.

If that woman can’t escape her own abusive relationship, why should she want to bear that man’s child? Why should she be forced to? How does it do any service to her fetus to prevent her having an abortion? Think that kid will thank society for encouraging its birth into a home where they could be molested or beaten by their own parents? Oh but the fetus is healthy! It has a right to live! A right to live, maybe, but no right to a life.

JLeslie's avatar

@ARE_you_kidding_me They aren’t made available in many communities. Late-ish abortions are harder and harder to come by. Like I said, the woman I described had to go two hours away to Little Rock, we lived outside of Memphis. A two day ordeal from start to finsih for her abortion. How would a poor person get over to the other city and stay a couple nights? Not to mention it sucks to want to be pregnant, have to go through an abortion, and maybe be alone in a hotel in a different city.

My other girlfriend, her doctor said to wait it out when he diagnosed the fetus, and she looked at him like he had six heads. She had her first baby through IVF, because she had so much trouble getting pregnant. Then by a miracle she gets pregnant, but the fetus has fatal flaws. She was getting older, wanted more kids, didn’t want to be pregnant with a fetus that was not going to make it. She told her doctor she wanted it removed and he told her there were only two doctors in NYC (she lived there) who do abortions that late. If he was correct, that is only two doctors in all of NYC. That was surprising to me, and a little scary.

jerv's avatar

Late to the party

When did facts matter when ideologues set policy?

But given other issues, the best bet would be to kick the Red states out like they tried to do themselves in the 1860s (We should’ve just let ‘em go instead of fighting the Civil War), and let them form their own impoverished police state.

ETpro's avatar

Wow! I’m not even going to try to respond to every post, other that by giving you all a GA, even those I vehemently disagree with. You took the time to present your opinion. For that, I own you a point.

There are a few posts that I think need a rebuttal, and I will address just those. If I don’t respond to your response other than to give it a GA, assume that means I agree. :-)

@pleiades Why would the Internet or computer games prevent crime? I’m convinced by the studies that games like Grand Theft Auto don’t cause crime, but I haven’t seen any data suggesting that they stop it. If you have references to peer reviewed studies that show this, please post them. I’d love to believe this is true.

@DWW25921 You really need to read the book before arguing with it, but Levitt actually looks at 4 factors that influenced the decrease in crime, finding that three had a minimal impact and legalized abortion was the prime mover. They also found statistics that could rule out altogether 6 other factors claimed to have been at work, but which statistical analysis show to have had no effect. That information was actually in the title of the peer reviewed paper on the topic linked in the OP.

@whitenoise Here is Levitt’s response to that criticism. I’d hardly call that backing down.

@KNOWITALL One could make the same argument about each egg you do not fertilize and each sperm cell a man doesn’t inject into a woman’s womb. First, let me say I think it is disingenuous to refer to aborted fetuses as Children. The average gestation at abortion is 9.5 weeks. Here is what your so-called “child” looks like at that point. And aside from the debate about when a zygote or fetus becomes a human, I’d offer this quote from Levitt and Dubner, which I think putts this discussion in its proper perspective. “Morality, it could be argued, represents the way that people would like the world to work, whereas economics represents how it actually does work.”

@flutherother The study was rigorous about showing causation, not just correlation. Global temperatures were rising at the time as well. The authors did not link climate change to a drop in crime. Levitt’s a Harvard Fellow in Economics, for goodness sakes. He isn’t some Internet nutcase that thinks any two things happening one on the heels of the other proves the first causes the later.

@Jaxk Come on. I know you can spin and obfuscate better than that. Nobody is suggesting eugenics. Disappointed?

@MadMadMax I know many among the Republican Base care deeply about Abortion for moral reasons, but for the right-wing Authoritarian Leaders who actually pull the strings, I think you have nailed it. Just one more instance of “I’ve got mine, screw you.”

@Seek_Kolinahr Further to that heart rending personal story you shared, here’s fuel from the work referenced in the OP to show that it’s possible (not likely, but occasionally possible) to survive bad parenting. I am so glad you’re among those who did.

From Frakonomics: Chapter 5, “What Makes a Perfect Parent?” pg 155–56
“For the sake of argument, let’s consider the story of two boys, one white and one black.

“The white boy is raised in a Chicago suburb by parents who read widely and involve themselves in school reform. His father, who has a decent manufacturing job, often takes the boy on nature hikes. His mother is a housewife who eventually will go back to college and earn a bachelor’s degree in education. The boy is happy and performs very well in school. His teachers think he may be a bona fide genius. His parents encourage him and are terribly proud when he skips a grade. He has an adoring younger brother who is also very bright. The family even holds literary salons in their home.

“The black boy is born in Daytona Beach, Florida, and his mother abandons him at the age of two. His father has a good job in sales but is a heavy drinker. He often beats the little boy with the metal end of a garden hose. One night when the boy is eleven, he is decorating a tabletop Christmas tree-the first one he has ever had-when his father starts beating up a lady friend in the kitchen. He hits her so hard that some teeth fly out of her mouth and land at the base of the boy’s Christmas tree, but the boy knows better than to speak up. At school he makes no effort whatsoever. Before long he is selling drugs, mugging suburbanites, carrying a gun. He makes sure to be asleep by the time his father come home from drinking, and to be out of the house before his father awakes. The father eventually goes to jail for sexual assault. By the age of twelve, the boy is essentially fending for himself.

“You don’t have to believe in obsessive parenting to think that the second boy doesn’t stand a chance and that the first boy has it made. What are the odds that the second boy, with the added handicap of racial discrimination, will turn out to lead a productive life? What are the odds that the first boy, so deftly primed for success, will somehow fail? And how much of his fate should each boy attribute to his parents?”

In the Epilogue, we find out how these two very different levels of parenting played out. The authors write:
“Recall for a moment the two boys, one white and one black, who were described in chapter 5. The white boy who grew up outside Chicago had smart, solid, encouraging, loving parents who stressed education and family. The black boy from Daytona Beach was abandoned by his mother, was beaten by his father, and had become a full-fledged gangster by his teens. So what became of the two boys?

“The second child, now twenty-eight years old, is Roland G. Fryer Jr., the Harvard economist studying black underachievement.

“The white child also made it to Harvard. But soon after, things went badly for him. His name is Ted Kaczynski.”

That’s all I can manage tonight. More tomorrow later today.

Seek's avatar

Why do the stories always leave out the catalyst? That boy didn’t fly to Harvard on a magic carpet. Someone helped him get there.

LostInParadise's avatar

@Jaxk , You have it all backwards. Crime tracks with poverty. Providing healthcare and food stamps removes the incentive to become a criminal. Since most poor people are working at minimum wage jobs, it would also help to raise the minimum wage.

DWW25921's avatar

@ETpro I wasn’t arguing any point really. In fact, in my last sentence I wrote, “You come up with interesting stuff! I’m going to follow this question and see if I learn something!” So you see I’m pliable on this issue.

Jaxk's avatar


If the crime rate has been going down, then it doesn’t track with poverty. Poverty has been pretty consistent since the late 60s. And it is significant to note that most of those below the poverty threshold do not work (about 90%), so the minimum wage would have no impact on them.

LostInParadise's avatar

Article The top of the third page says that half of the poor are working.

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