May 8, 2005

Finally, a couple of non-credulous, evenhanded reviews of Freakonomics:

Sharon Cohen writes on the Associated Press:

Levitt and John Donohue, then of Stanford University Law School, created an uproar in 2001 when they concluded that legalized abortion significantly contributed to a drop in crime in the 1990s.

Here's Levitt's explanation: "Legalized abortion lowered unwantedness. Unwantedness is related to crime, so legalized abortion lowered crime."

Angry letters poured in. The right AND the left fumed. The authors were branded racists proposing a form of eugenics. Levitt insists he was stunned by the reaction and the study made no moral judgments on abortion.

"It never occurred to us that anybody would be upset," he says. "I've done a lot of research. No one ever cares."

Some critics complained the study used limited data. Others claimed it misinterpreted numbers and made unfair comparisons. "He's picking up the decline in crack and calling it the abortion effect," says Ted Joyce, an economics professor and expert on reproductive health policy at Baruch College in New York.

Exactly. Levitt has rigged the deck by declaring that the only question of interest is why the second generation born after abortion was legalized had lower crime rates. That the first generation born after abortion was legalized had higher crime rates, well, his Wizard of Oz-like attitude toward that crucial fact has been: "Pay no attention to all those teen murderers behind the curtain!"

In Salon, reviewer Andrew Leonard, who actually did the work of reading my article in The American Conservative before writing his review, prudently declared himself agnostic on the abortion-cut-crime question.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

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