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Does Increased Abortion Lead to Reduced Crime? Evaluating the Relationship between Crime, Abortion, and Fertility

Anindya Sen ()

No 2004, Working Papers from University of Waterloo, Department of Economics

Abstract: Donohue and Levitt (2001) attribute over half the current decline in U.S. crime rates to the legalization of abortion. I contribute to the literature by using provincial Canadian data, which permits the segregation of trends in teenage abortions from general abortion rates. This distinction is important, as I find that a much larger drop in violent crime (almost half) during the nineteen-nineties, is attributable to the increase in teenage abortions due to abortion legalization. In contrast, the fall in general abortion rates accounts for a quarter of the decline. Hence, falling crime rates are largely attributable to abortion legalization resulting in better timing of births, rather than lower cohort size. Further, I find that the drop in teenage fertility rates during the nineteen-sixties and seventies, accounts for the entire fall in violent crime. This is probably in part, due to the increase in contraception sophistication (the pill) witnessed during that era.

Date: 2002-01, Revised 2002-01
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