Measurement Error, Legalized Abortion, and the Decline in Crime: A Response to Foote and Goetz (2005)

John J. Donohue, Steven D. Levitt

NBER Working Paper No. 11987
Issued in January 2006
NBER Program(s):   HE   LE   LS   PE

Donohue and Levitt (2001) argue that the legalization of abortion in the United States in the 1970s played an important role in explaining the observed decline in crime approximately two decades later. Foote and Goetz (2005) challenge the results presented in one of the tables in that original paper. In this reply, we regretfully acknowledge the omission of state-year interactions in the published version of that table, but show that their inclusion does not alter the qualitative results (or their statistical significance), although it does reduce the magnitude of the estimates. When one uses a more carefully constructed measure of abortion (e.g. one that takes into account cross-state mobility, or doing a better job of matching dates of birth to abortion exposure), however, the evidence in support of the abortion-crime hypothesis is as strong or stronger than suggested in our original work.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w11987

Published: Donohue, John J. and Steven D. Levitt. "Measurement Error, Legalized Abortion, and the Decline in Crime: A Response to Foote and Goetz." Quarterly Journal of Economics 123, 1 (2008): 425-440.

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