Dana Goldstein of the Justice Lab at The Marshall Project has prepared a Top 10 (Not Entirely Crazy) Theories Explaining the Great Crime Decline. Below is the first in a series of Goldstein's reasons for the dramatic decline in crime since the mid-1990s:
The “abortion filter”
In 1999 and again in 2005, economists Steven Levitt and John Donohue triggered a sensation with their theory that the legalization of abortion was responsible for as much as half of the crime decline. The idea was that a drop in unwanted children led to better parenting and fewer delinquent young men. It’s easy to see why the media loved this hypothesis, which seemed to piss off everyone else: Conservatives hated the notion that abortion might have led to a major social good, while liberals pushed back against the assumption that bad parenting had been the cause of crime in the first place.
Today, the abortion hypothesis holds less water. “Generally speaking, it has been discredited,” Rosenfeld says. Violent crime continued to rise into the early years of the 1990s, when the first generation of boys who went through the “abortion filter” were already in their late teens to early 20s, older than the age—13—at which criminal behavior typically emerges. Evidence from other nations showed little relationship between the legalization of abortion and the crime rate. If abortion does account for a fraction of the American crime decline, it is likely a small one.
An analysis of crime and punishment from the perspective of a former prosecutor and current criminal justice practitioner.
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