Abortion and Crime: A Review

67 Pages Posted: 20 Jun 2009 Last revised: 4 Apr 2021

See all articles by Theodore Joyce

Theodore Joyce

CUNY Baruch College - Zicklin School of Business; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Date Written: June 2009


Ten years have passed since John Donohue and Steven Levitt initially proposed that legalized abortion played a major role in the dramatic decline in crime during the 1990s. Criminologists largely dismiss the association because simple plots of age-specific crime rates are inconsistent with a large cohort affect following the legalization of abortion. Economists, on the other hand, have corrected mistakes in the original analyses, added new data, offered alternative tests and tried to replicate the association in other countries. Donohue and Levitt have responded to each challenge with more data and additional regressions. Making sense of the dueling econometrics has proven difficult for even the most seasoned empiricists. In this paper I review the evidence. I argue that the most straightforward test given available data involves age-specific arrest and homicide rates regressed on lagged abortion rates in the 1970s or indicators of abortion legalization in 1970 and 1973. Such models provide little support for the Donohue and Levitt hypothesis in either the US or the United Kingdom.

Suggested Citation

Joyce, Theodore J., Abortion and Crime: A Review (June 2009). NBER Working Paper No. w15098, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1422976

Theodore J. Joyce (Contact Author)

CUNY Baruch College - Zicklin School of Business ( email )

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New York, NY 10010
United States

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) ( email )

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