Thursday, October 18, 2007

giuliani fights crime

I read Freakonomics yesterday. The book applies economic principles to analyze several interesting questions that don't really have anything to do with economics. One of the questions asks about the cause of the steep and unexpected drop in crime rates nationwide starting around 1990. The analysis looks at several of the explanations cited by experts and concludes that the actual reason, never cited by experts, was the legalization of abortion, nationwide, via Roe v. Wade in 1973. You can read the author's argument for yourself. (here's their blog.) But the general conclusion seems obvious enough on its face. Childhood neglect leads to criminal behavior, abortion lessens the number of unwanted and neglected children, therefore abortion lowers crime rates. 17 years after women likely to give birth to unwanted and neglected children were allowed to have legal abortions, the crime rate drops just as those never born children would have been entering their criminal primes. It's not an argument for abortion. It's an explanation for lower crime rates.

What this has to do with Giulani is that it brings together two issues that have been an important part of his campaign. Giulani supports abortion rights and has had to carefully finesse this issue while playing to an anti-abortion conservative base. Giulani has also made the lowering crime rate in New York under his watch in the 1990s a centerpiece of the kind of leadership he's proud of. According to the argument in Freakonomics, though, the lowering crime rate in New York had almost nothing to do with the innovative policing policies Giulani is so proud of, and almost everything to do with a legalized abortion policy he would prefer not to mention.


Joel Monka said...

Of course he's not going to mention crime and abortion in the same breath! There are those in the eugenics crowd who argue that criminal tendencies are inheritable, and that the "criminal classes" should be controlled through abortion and sterilization like the other defectives. Do you really want pro choice and eugenics linked in political debates again?

Bill Baar said...

Leavit admitted to some mistakes with his calcs on the Abortion Crime correlations back in 2005.

There are lies, damned lies, and statistics.

As a number cruncher, I'd take Leavit's stats with a large grain of salt.

As a contribution towards the ethics and morality of abortion, absolutely no contribution.