New Op-ed at Fox News: Abortion and Crime

So does increasing abortion rates increase crime rates? The full article is here:

Violent crime in the United States soared after 1960. From 1960 to 1991, reported violent crime increased by an incredible 372 percent. This disturbing trend was seen across the country, with robbery peaking in 1991 and rape and aggravated assault following in 1992. But then something unexpected happened: Between 1991 and 2000, rates of violent crime and property crime fell sharply, dropping by 33 percent and 30 percent, respectively. Murder rates were stable up to 1991, but then plunged by a steep 44 percent.

Many plausible explanations have been advanced for the drop during the 1990s. Some stress law-enforcement measures, such as higher arrest and conviction rates, longer prison sentences, “broken windows” police strategies, and the death penalty. Others emphasize right-to-carry laws for concealed handguns, a strong economy, or the waning of the crack-cocaine epidemic.

Yet, of all the explanations, perhaps the most controversial is the one that attributes lower crime rates in the ’90s to Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court’s 1973 decision to mandate legalized abortion. According to this argument, . . .

Please leave a comment on the piece.



Blogger Tina said...

John, thank you for a thoroughly researched piece. We need more like it to cut through the rhetoric. Some people avoid the controversy surrounding the abortion debate because they are uncomfortable with the whole moral side of the debate. They need to understand the literal costs to our county in dollars and cents. I fall under the category of people who believe that history, and history's God, will judge us quite harshly for killing off a generation of people. You cannot condone the murder of innocent and defenseless babies on the one hand, while expecting people to value human life enough not to commit murder on the other. It is simply not a logical stance to take. You might also consider looking into the explosion of breast cancer in the U.S. in correlation to the Roe decision. A woman who is post-abortal is 600% more likely to get breast cancer than those who don't...a fact the mainstream media will not touch with a ten-foot pole.

7/07/2008 1:33 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The biggest reason for the drop in crime in the U.S. is our prison population started dramatically increasing in the '80s and has risen ever since:


We now have the largest prison population and the highest incarceration rate in the world.

One reason crime started going up in the '60s is the baby boomer population bubble hit the prime crime ages of 15 to 25 years of age.

7/07/2008 2:01 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for an interesting piece.

7/07/2008 2:34 PM  
Blogger John Lott said...

Dear First Anonymous:

I agree that law enforcement (arrests, incarceration, the death penalty) matters. If you follow the link to my piece with John Whitley that is mentioned, you will see that we do account for changes in those factors as well. If it wasn't for abortion, factors such as law enforcement would have reduced murder rates even more than we observed.

7/07/2008 3:38 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you for the very brave piece. The information you have given us needs to be widely disseminated. Of course, you didn't mention the other obvious fact. Abortion itself is, at the very least, homicide. Factor that in, and the crime rate has increased phenomenally. It's easy to make the crime rate "go down" by simply legalizing some crimes. Pat Goltz

7/07/2008 4:28 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What a great series of articles.

Freakanomics and the study on "unwanted" children also failed to take into account adoption vs. abortion: what would have happened to the unwanted children if they were raised in loving adoptive homes?

7/07/2008 6:10 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You're asking the wrong question. It is not abortion, or lack there-of, that increases or decreases crime.

It is, quite simply, teen parenthood (which is, almost exclusively, a phenomenon of lower to middle class girls) which increases and perpetuates the cycle of crime.

The problem is children having children -- and all of the resulting poverty, drug use, school failures, etc. that go along with it...with the result of...more children having children.


7/07/2008 6:12 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What about the shall issue CCW laws?

IIRC most of them came online during the 90's.

7/07/2008 7:11 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Let's see, the Roe v. Wade decision which legalized abortion occurred in 1973. Given your argument that abortion leads to unwed births and more criminals,
the earliest that the Roe v. Wade decision could have affected the crime rate is 15 to 20 years *later* when all of the new kids born to unwed mothers were old enough to commit crimes. This would be around 1988 to 1993, just about the time violent and property crimes started falling sharply.

What am I missing here?

7/07/2008 10:05 PM  
Blogger John Lott said...

Dear last anonymous:

The point is that there are other things that are effecting crime at the same time (e.g., putting more people in prison, higher arrest rates, etc.). If you look at the figures in this paper here (http://ssrn.com/abstract=270126), I think that you will see the difference in murder rates by people born immediately before and after the change in abortion laws.

7/08/2008 1:51 AM  
Blogger Tman said...

Hi Mr. Lott,

You present an intriguing rebuttal to the work done by Mr. Leavitt and Mr. Donohue, but I think what your theory does is actually lessen the argument for or against abortion legality as a major factor in the drop in crime rates altogether.

To believe your theory you must pinpoint RoeVW as the "moment" when people starting having sex more without worrying about the consequences. But if you use that moral argument, one would argue that the reason we had the RoeVW argument in the first place is that people already were having sex more without worrying about the consequences.

The failure to pinpoint RoeVW as the turning point one way or the other in this argument is fascinating though.

Perhaps we have too much information?

7/08/2008 3:11 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for article. There are those who would have us believe abortion, handing out contraception, and teaching safe sex (condoning premarital sex) cut down on unwanted pregnancies - and as such is good for society. As you point out, abortion, et al actually increases unwanted pregnancies - and thus other societal ills. All the effects of abortion are counter intuitive - and horribly damaging to women, children .... and society.

7/08/2008 10:32 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If there are higher arrest rates and more people in prison, how did these people get arrested and sent to prison? Unless they had the Patriot Act back then and were hauled off to jail without trial... They committed crimes! Unwanted babies? Abort them! Violent criminals? Fry them! Don't want to go on living? Assisted suicide! It is getting rather crowded around here and someone needs to thin the heard since nature has been circumvented by the medical industry.

7/08/2008 10:53 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You mention that there was only a three year time span between Canada legalizing abortion and the drop in crime which I have no reason to doubt. But in fact while abortion became legal here in 1988, in practice restrictions ended around 1980 when the government stopped enforcing the laws regarding abortion.

Since 1988 there is no law in Canada regarding abortion

7/08/2008 11:14 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey John. Great set of articles on the consequences of abortion. They really complement and verify the moral argument against it, given Jesus' maxim that "Wisdom is proved right by her children." The corollary, of course, is that folly is proved wrong by her (in this case, aborted) children.

7/08/2008 11:24 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The simple fact that your article is are designed as a counterpoint to the Freakanomics argument is its fundamental flaw: You have an agenda and you sought the statistical data to support your position rather than draw your conclusion based on the data.

The fact the that Faux News posted the article is simply sauce for the goose.

7/08/2008 12:38 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


There is a reason for the dramatic increase in all female cancers since the late 1960s.

Its called smoking.

Look it up and please historical revisionism to the experts.

7/08/2008 1:02 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear John: Thanks for the provocative article on abortion ... I always appreciate your writing ... it stimulates thought.
I think abortion is a failure of birth control and I do no like the practice. However, abortion has nothing to do with crime one way or the other. Of course the evidence for single parent families and crime is strong. How about changing the welfare system to provide for two parent families rather than just single parent families. jim

7/08/2008 1:05 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As a 1965 baby from an unmarried teen I thank God every day abortion was not an option for her. My wife, three kids and 2 dogs do as well. Statistics can be used to prove anything and I am glad to see that there are still people willing to challenge the single minded, results validate the assumption, of many of these social archetects.

7/08/2008 5:38 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think that the lowered crime rate could have something to do with the end of the Cold War. Knowing the at you could be vaporized by the Soviets at any second probably has some impact on someone's willingness to committ a crime.

7/09/2008 8:55 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Glad the evidence shows crime is not caused by abortion. What crime and the ills of society comes down to is flawed, wounded people trying to raise children, which become flawed wounded people.

7/09/2008 1:08 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's just a matter of the lack of value on human life which your research supports. Abortion shows no value to human life thus if life has no value violent crime is going to rise. Good Job and Thank You.

7/09/2008 1:24 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This 'statistical research' is a bunch of bull. I can tell you from firsthand experiance, coming from a country that outlawed all forms of abortion and contraception (Romania) that it had dire consequences on society. Anyone remember all of the made for TV movies on romanian orphanages? While i agree that abortion is a horrible procedure, sometimes it is a necessaty. everyone screaming bloody murder is already convinced that abortion is wrong and theese statistics that John mentions just dont make any sense to me as to how you point to the increase of abortions as being the cause. I think your moral beliefs are blinding your judgement.

7/09/2008 4:14 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

John Lott imputes error to those people (Forssman and Thuwe) who conducted the original "experiment". I don't. I impute fraud and political manipulation. I likewise so impute to Donohue and Levitt. In this, they were all almost certainly pioneers of the modern hyper-leftist, hyper-political class.

7/09/2008 4:29 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think there are other reasons for the increase in single parents, not just abortion. Social norms have been changing over time so being a single parent or an unwed mother does not have the negative stigma it once did. If you're watching Hollywood these days it's almost expected that you have a baby before you get pregnant. So I don't think making abortions legal actually has that much of an impact on the number of single parents, and therefore "potential criminals" on the street.

7/09/2008 6:47 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

John, you base your argument on the assumption that legalized abortion has led to a "dramatic" increase in single-parent families. Can you tell me the studies that show this to be true? not just correlative, but causal. Also, murder rates fall as any cohort ages, so your assertion that pre-Roe people started to have lower murder rates before post-Roe people can be just as easily explained by age.

7/09/2008 7:57 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mr. Lott,

I've found your article facinating. I was wondering if any consideration to the feminist movement has been taking into account. More women in the work place less parental guidance and and increased divorce rate.

Thank you
John B

7/09/2008 8:20 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear John:

Thank you for your article. It is not acceptable the murder of innocent and defenseless babies, just like us who are reading your article were given that precious opportunity of life, but also with
the legalized Roe v. Wade decision
I just look back and see that we just started to focus on onself,now
it's like this green light to live for yourself with this mentality of living loose and free forgetting morals and not spending time with the individuals who shape who we are our parents, grandparents, husbands, wives, and most importantly our children who have very little stability in a home because for that very simple reason we do not want to sacrifice our time for anyone anymore - children listen, if we are not there to talk to them, the streets are. Abortion is not the solution to cutting crime, responsibility and accountability makes simple sense. Thank you.

7/14/2008 11:04 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Less people = less crime. End of discussion

1/11/2013 4:39 PM  
Blogger Eddie Muela said...

This article and the Fox news article that links to it state in a round-a-bout way that abortion decreases crime except for the babies that weren't aborted.

You guys should be DJs because you're masters of spin.

Here's the Fox News article:

3/08/2014 7:19 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

I see lots of talk about this topic. Your saying that the evidence disproves the abortion claim but I don't see any evidence that shows such. The only thing here is your word. Not even a reference, really?

12/02/2015 9:59 AM  
Blogger John Lott said...

Thanks, Jacob, but there were links in the piece. Did you try any of them? This will be of particular use:

12/16/2015 3:41 AM  
Blogger PBR said...

Hi Dr. Lott,

Have you seen this presentation/study?


In it the author proposes the post-double selection method (more accurate) and shows that the effect alleged by Donohue and Levitt (2001) is much reduced.

More about it here: https://academic.oup.com/restud/article-abstract/81/2/608/1523757?sid=56bf80c5-c794-45f1-9292-84f19f63b2b5

4/22/2018 11:49 AM  
Blogger PBR said...

Found this article with more discussion:


4/22/2018 12:05 PM  
Blogger John Lott said...

Dear PBR:
There are more basic problems with abortion work, including the data and the basic test.

11/04/2018 11:40 PM  

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