Chapter 12 - Abortion and Crime Abortion is a controversial issue!! Walker (earlier edition): "Whatever your views on abortion might be, it is difficult if not impossible to find a connection between it and serious crime. Legalizing or criminalizing abortion has no effect on robbery and burglary."
Chapter 12 - Abortion and Crime In the new edition (6) that we are using, Walker briefly mentions some recent new research on abortion and crime rates, but he doesn’t discuss it in any detail. He also says it hasn’t been “replicated” – but doesn’t explain what that means.
Chapter 12 - Abortion and Crime New research indicates that abortion (and to a lesser extent the economic boom) is a major reason for the big drop in crime in the 1990's!!(Levitt and Donahue) BJS homicide table next slide Note: Compare to baby boomers in 1960s
Chapter 12 - Abortion and Crime What the new research found -- using mainly demographic analysis - is that abortion reduced the number of people at the prime crime age in the 1990s, and the reduced number led to lower crime rates. Note: these researchers take no position on abortion as a moral/political issue!!
Chapter 12 - Abortion and Crime Background/History Late 1940s into early 1950s (after WW2) baby boomers born, led to huge crime incr roughly 15-25 years later in the 1960s as the baby boomers reached prime crime age.
Chapter 12 - Abortion and Crime 1950s Unwanted pregnancies often led to forced marriages - “shotgun marriages” Abortion and birth control mostly restricted - especially unobtainable for the poor But birth rates were dropping - “the pill”
Chapter 12 - Abortion and Crime 1960s Increasing illegal abortions + birth control Baby boomers reaching parenting age - “echo” (Echo boomer kids hit the prime crime age in the 1980s - much smaller numbers than bb)
Chapter 12 - Abortion and Crime 1970s Birth control & family planning for “middle class” (Reduced unwanted pregnancies & forced marriages) Abortion for poor women (mostly teens) begins Publicly subsidized/funded
Chapter 12 - Abortion and Crime 1970s & 1980s 1.5 million abortions a year - mostly poor 30 million abortions, 25+ million fewer poor young people through the 1990s - as they would have aged in to crime Thus, the big drops in crime in the 1990s!
Chapter 12 - Abortion and Crime Donohue and Levitt (researchers) Researchers are very cautious!! Four lines of evidence supporting role of abortion in 1990s crime decreases:
Chapter 12 - Abortion and Crime 1. Crime decreases started about 18 years after legalization of abortion following Roe v. Wade - just about when first cohorts were reaching prime crime age. Authors: This is weakest part of argument! Researchers cautious - many other things going on at the same time - “simultaneity problem”
Chapter 12 - Abortion and Crime 2. Five states legalized abortion 3 years before Roe v. Wade - crime decreases started in all five states about 3 years before the national trend started. Authors: Still just weak evidence - could be coincidence (more caution)
Chapter 12 - Abortion and Crime 3. States with high abortion rates in the 1970s had much larger crime decreases in the 1990s than states with low abortion rates in the 1970s. Authors: more convincing evidence!
Chapter 12 - Abortion and Crime 4. The large crime drop in the 1990s only occurred among those under 25 years old which is the only demographic group at the time who had been affected by the legalization of abortion. Authors: combined with the other patterns, this becomes pretty convincing evidence.
Chapter 12 - Abortion and Crime Putting the research into context -- what else was going on that contributed to the drop in homicide/crime in the 1990s? -- back to the table --
Chapter 12 - Abortion and Crime Rise in 1980s, before drop in 1990s the economic boom? changes in availability of guns? (more later) demographics/abortion? Note: growth of imprisonment rate slowed in the 1990s (so not incapacitation).
Chapter 12 - Abortion and Crime So the answer to the original question - Decriminalization can, and has, contributed to reducing serious crime - This also illustrates the huge importance of sociology to criminology!
Next Discrimination + another disagreement/addition regarding Walkers discussions