Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Freakonomics Wrong on Abortion?

Well, maybe abortion is not the big crime buster some believe it to be. According to a Wall Street Journal article, economists at the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston have found some faults with the statistics used by Steven Levitt, the co-author of Freakonomics, for his most famous, or infamous, theory. Levitt asserted that Roe v. Wade led to a drop in crime because poorer women who were able to get abortions would probably have had children more likely to commit crimes.

Well, the Fed economists (not endorsed by the Fed) say there is no statistical proof "the hypothetical youths who were aborted as fetuses would have been more likely to commit crimes had they reached maturity than the actual youths who developed from fetuses and carried to term."

Levitt acknowledges a "programming error", but stands by his theory, saying the Fed economists looked only at a small subset of his overall work on abortion and crime.

Levitt's arguments bring abortion to the level of social utility, a "clean" way to lower crime. I have always believed, perhaps hoped, the explanation for the drop in crime in the recent years will be more complicated than Roe v. Wade. Levitt, however, has shot down other explanations in his book, such as the "broken windows" theory. The debate continues.

1 comment:

Steve Sailer said...

Ever since I debated Dr. Steven D. Levitt in Slate.com in 1999 over his abortion-cut-crime theory ( http://www.slate.com/id/33569/entry/33571/ ), people have been telling me that my simpleminded little graphs and ratios of national crime trends showing that Dr. Levitt hadn't met the burden of proof couldn't possibly be right because Dr. Levitt’s state-level evidence was so much more gloriously, glamorously, incomprehensibly complicated than mine, and Occam's Butterknife says that the guy with the most convoluted argument wins.

Well, now we now why Dr. Levitt’s abstruse state-level analysis didn't match up with my straight-forward national-level analysis: because he made two big mistakes in his work according to economists Christopher Foote and Christopher Goetz of the Boston Federal Reserve. See that Wall Street Journal's article "'Freakonomics' Abortion Research
Is Faulted by a Pair of Economists" at http://online.wsj.com/public/article/SB113314261192407815-HLjarwtM95Erz45QPP0pDWul8rc_20061127.html?mod=tff_main_tff_top

You can see the facts that Dr. Levitt left out of Freakonomics at www.iSteve.com/abortion.htm

Best wishes,
Steve Sailer