Sunday, April 30, 2006

Abortionomics - a rogue taxcutter explores the hidden side of every PC argument

Unfortunately the TaxCutter was conned into purchasing this standard analysis of US government statistics. Why is it so lauded? My hunch is its due to the claim that abortion reduced the US crime rate but funny how that's not mentioned on the cover or the tubewide marketing blitz .

Levitt's main claim is that the reduction in US crime, especially in New York, in the mid-90s came off the Roe vs Wade case in 1973 as fewer persons likely to commit crime were born. Levitt gives some credit to the increased use of prison and greater policing. No credit however is given to Guiliani's Broken Window theory of policing, credit that Levitt says was due to legalised abortion.

Error 1 The TaxCutter reckons that crims start activities from 12 and go on to about 30 - based roughly on his former classmates. Several states had legalised abortion before 1970. States had legalised abortion post 1973, so hence crime using Levitt's own theory should have started falling between 1982 and 1985, not the mid 1990s, when the aborted future criminals would have become active.

Error 2 Levitt's claims that the number of future murderers aborted has actually saved lives when you net fewer murder victims versus aborted foetuses. This is on the assumption that 1 newborn baby = 100 foetuses (page 144 of Penguin paperback). Hang on - by my reckoning 4 out of 5 foetuses become newborn babies. If we take a foetus that is 20 weeks old, then the chances of it becoming a child are even higher than 80%. Us accountants might in cold terms discount the foetuses a bit for the fact they are on average 4.5 months further away from a productive living. But that leaves us with a far more realistic stat that 1 newborn baby = approximately 1.25 foetuses.

Contradiction - Levitt assumes that those who have abortions are more likely to have criminally inclined children because an unwanted child is neglected to it is more likely to become criminal, basically the "every child must be a wanted child" argument the TaxCutter used to hear belted out at NUS conferences. There is no evidence produced of which sort of people have abortions. When writing on education, Levitt claims that parenting is overrated - who your parents are is more important than what your parents do.

Missing analysis - Crime fell more quickly in states that legalised abortion earlier. Curiously enough, this includes states with more crime and greater urban areas in the first place.

Levitt does not examine what drives crime. The TaxCutter's police and prosecutor friends point out that about 90% of UK crime is heroin-related. For the US replace heroin with crack and its probably about the same. The early to mid-90s saw a dramatic reduction in the price of crack-cocaine in the US. The addicted criminal commits crime to get their fix. If we assume that each burglary / mugging etc has a relatively standard financial reward then what we find is that the addicted need to commit fewer crimes to find the funds to fuel their habit + hence cheaper drugs mean fewer crimes.

Don't buy this book - it will be readily available in charity shops for 50p in a couple of years time!

2 Comments:

At 7:54 AM, Blogger Fiona said...

Good post. I was infuriated some time ago to read The Times rather sycophantic and lazy review of Freakonomics, which gave his theory blind credence. It only took a brief google search to throw up possible statistical flaws in Levitt's research, objections which didn't merit any mention in the Times's review.

As you mention there is missing analysis - Levitt isn't interested in what causes crime - only in proving a link between abortion and crime. In addition to your comments about drugs related crime, Steve Sailor posted this on Levitt's own website about drugs related crime: (http://www.freakonomics.com/blog/2005/11/28/everything-in-freakonomics-is-wrong/)

1. From NY and CA, crack spread to more socially conservative states, where the abortion rate had also gone up later. So crime was higher in the 1990s in socially conservative states that hadn’t legalized abortion in 1970.

And, the crack wave burned out first in the places where it started first, most famously New York City.

We’ve all heard a million arguments about why crime fell in NYC in the 1990s, but the simplest explanation was offered by Knight-Ridder reporter Jonathan Tilove recently: there are today in NYC, 36% more black women alive than black men. Nationally, among all races, there are 8% more women than men alive. Obviously, this gigantic black male shortage in NYC wasn’t caused by abortion—there was virtually no sex selective abortion at the time. No, it was mostly caused by an enormous increase in imprisonment and by the most dangerous black men murdering each other in large quantities. Levitt has never written, as far as I know, about the impact of “selective post-natal abortions,” as it were, on the crime rate, but it’s clearly a substantial factor in a number of big cities that were hit hard by crack."

 
At 2:37 AM, Blogger redmayne said...

dear taxcutter,

I suggest you stick to arguments about freedom of choice and not fall into the arms of the antichoice lobby.

If welfare wasd dframatically scaled back and no support was given for pregnant maothers except to permit terminations up to 30 weeks perhaps then we would , in a generation, see a preponderance of wealthy middle class people in this country and a reduction in the numbers of feckless.

this would lead to lower taxes in the log run

do you agree weith such a policy

 

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