NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

Further Evidence that Legalized Abortion Lowered Crime: A Reply to Joyce

John J. Donohue III, Steven D. Levitt

NBER Working Paper No. 9532
Issued in March 2003
NBER Program(s):   HC   LE   LS

Donohue and Levitt (2001) present a number of analyses that suggest a causal link between legalized abortion and reductions in crime almost two decades later when the cohorts exposed to legalized abortion reach their peak crime years. Joyce (2003) challenges that finding. In this paper, we demonstrate that Joyce's failure to uncover a negative relationship between abortion and crime is a direct consequence of his decision to focus exclusively on the six-year period 1985-90 without including adequate controls for the crack epidemic. We provide empirical evidence that crack hit the high-abortion early legalizing states harder and earlier. We then demonstrate that using precisely the same treatment and control groups as Joyce, but extending the data analysis to encompass the lifetime criminal experiences (as opposed to an arbitrary six-year window), the evidence strongly supports the hypothesis that legalized abortion reduces crime. We also show that our original results are robust to focusing on only the cohorts born immediately before or after Roe v. Wade. The data suggest that ease of access to abortion, rather than simply de jure legalization, is a critical determinant of the extent of the crime reduction.

download in pdf format
   (116 K)

email paper

The NBER Bulletin on Aging and Health provides summaries of publications like this.  You can sign up to receive the NBER Bulletin on Aging and Health by email.

This paper is available as PDF (116 K) or via email.

Machine-readable bibliographic record - MARC, RIS, BibTeX

Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w9532

Published: Donohue III, John J. and Steven Levitt. “Further Evidence that Legalized Abortion Lowered Crime: A Reply To Joyce." 39 Journal of Human Resources 29 (Winter 2004). citation courtesy of

Users who downloaded this paper also downloaded these:
Kearney w11234 The Economic Winners and Losers of Legalized Gambling
Wolfers w10014 Did Unilateral Divorce Laws Raise Divorce Rates? A Reconciliation and New Results
Moffitt w9751 The Negative Income Tax and the Evolution of U.S. Welfare Policy
La Porta, Lopez-de-Silanes, and Shleifer w9882 What Works in Securities Law?
Collins w9562 The Housing Market Impact of State-Level Anti-Discrimination Laws, 1960-970
 
Publications
Activities
Meetings
NBER Videos
Data
People
About

Support
National Bureau of Economic Research, 1050 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA 02138; 617-868-3900; email: info@nber.org

Contact Us