April 16, 2005

Ted Joyce and John R. Lott on the Abortion-Cut-Crime theory

Here's the abstract to Ted Joyce's unpublished new paper:

The inverse relationship between abortion and crime has spurred new research and much controversy. If the relationship is causal, then polices that increased abortion have generated enormous external benefits from reduced crime. In previous papers, I argued that evidence for a casual relationship is weak and incomplete. In this paper, I conduct a number of new analyses intended to address [Levitt and Donohue's] criticisms of my earlier work.

First, I examine closely the effects of changes in abortion rates between 1971 and 1974. Changes in abortion rates during this period were dramatic, varied widely by state, had a demonstrable effect on fertility, and were more plausibly exogenous than changes in the late 1970s and early 1980s. If abortion reduced crime, crime should have fallen sharply as these post-legalization cohorts reached their late teens and early 20s, the peak ages of criminal involvement.

It did not.

Second, I conduct separate estimates for whites and blacks because the effect of legalized abortion on crime should have been much larger for blacks than whites, since the effect of legalization of abortion on the fertility rates of blacks was much larger.

There was little race difference in the reduction in crime.

Finally, I compare changes in homicide rates before and after legalization of abortion, within states, by single year of age. The analysis of older adults is compelling because they were largely unaffected by the crack-cocaine epidemic, which was a potentially important confounding factor in earlier estimates.

These analyses provide little evidence that legalized abortion reduced crime.

Ted Joyce National Bureau of Economic Research and Baruch College, City University of New York

In another unpublished paper, John R. Lott and John Whitley found correlations suggesting that increased abortion actually increased the murder rate.

Previous empirical work linking abortions and crime has assumed, with the exception of five states, that no abortions took place prior to the Roe v. Wade decision in January 1973. In fact, abortion data from the Centers for Disease Control indicate that states which allowed abortions prior to the Roe v. Wade only when the life or health of the mother was in danger actually had higher abortion rates than some states where it was legal. The use of data from the Supplemental Homicide Report also allows the direct linkage between the current age of the murderer and the abortion rate when those murders were born.).

One more abortion per 1,000 females age 15-44 (i.e., about four percent of the average) is associated with between a 0.12 to 0.9 percent increase in murders in any given year. Similar estimates are obtained using abortions per 1,000 live births. Linear estimates indicate increased annual victimization costs by at least $3.2 billion.

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

"Pre-emptive Executions?"

My article on the hot abortion-cut-crime theory in the May 9th issue of The American Conservative is now available to electronic subscribers. An excerpt from the conclusion:

The social effects of abortion demand closer study.

Although Levitt claims that legalized abortion should have improved the conditions under which children were raised, it made adoption rare. The federal Center for Disease Control reported, "Before 1973 about one in five premarital births to white women were relinquished for adoption. By the mid-1980's (1982-88), this proportion fell to 1 in 30."

Even worse, the national illegitimacy rate soared, from 12 percent in 1972 to 34 percent in 2002. The growth didn't begin to slow until the mid-1990s, when the abortion rate declined. Increased illegitimacy is socially devastating, not just because of the long run harm to the child of being raised without a father, but because of the immediate effect of freeing young men from the civilizing clutches of marriage.

Why did the abortion rate and the illegitimacy rate both skyrocket during the Seventies? Isn't abortion supposed to cut illegitimacy?

Roe largely finished off the traditional shotgun wedding by persuading the impregnating boyfriend that he had no moral duty to make an honest woman of his girlfriend since she could get an abortion. The CDC noted, "Among women aged 15-29 years conceiving a first birth before marriage during 1970-74, nearly half (49 percent) married before the child was born. By 1975-79 the proportion marrying before the birth of the child fell to 32 percent, and it has declined to 23 percent in 1990-94."

The most striking fact about legalized abortion, but also the least discussed, is its pointlessness. Levitt himself notes that following Roe, "Conceptions rose by nearly 30 percent, but births actually fell by 6 percent …" So, for every six fetuses aborted in the 1970s, five would never have been conceived except for Roe!

This ratio makes a sick joke out of Levitt's assumption that legalization made a significant difference in how "wanted" children were. (Indeed, perhaps the increase in the number of women who got pregnant figuring they would get an abortion but then were too drunk or drugged or distracted to get to the clinic, meant that the "wantedness" of surviving babies may have declined.)

The sheer waste of it all is staggering. And the impact on the overall morality of our society of this Supreme Court-condoned carelessness over life is incalculable.

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

Tierney on Levitt vs. Gladwell

John Tierney's second NYT op-ed column "The Miracle That Wasn't" reports on the debate Thursday between Malcolm Gladwell and Steven D. Levitt on what really caused crime in NY to go down in the 1990s: The Tipping Point (Gladwell) or Pre-Natal Capital Punishment (Levitt).

The essential problem with this type of debate is that it frames the issue too narrowly as: what caused murder to go down in the later 1990s? Instead, the full question should be: What were the causes of the murder rate going up in the late 1980s and early 1990s and its subsequent fall? When we look at the bigger picture, it's easier to get a more realistic sense of history than to simply assume that the early 1990s were the norm and thus we need some bestselling author to give us his unique theory:

Tierney writes:

It is an inspirational urban lesson from the 1990's: take back the streets from squeegee men and drug dealers, and violent crime will plummet. But on Thursday evening, the tipping-point theory was looking pretty wobbly itself.

The occasion was a debate in Manhattan before an audience thrilled to be present for a historic occasion: the first showdown between two social-science wonks with books that were ranked second and third on Amazon.com (outsold only by "Harry Potter"). It pitted Malcolm Gladwell, author of "Blink" and "The Tipping Point," against Steven D. Levitt, an economist at the University of Chicago with the new second-place book, "Freakonomics."

Professor Levitt considers the New York crime story to be an urban legend. Yes, he acknowledges, there are tipping points when people suddenly start acting differently, but why did crime drop in so many other cities that weren't using New York's policing techniques? His new book, written with Stephen J. Dubner, concludes that one big reason was simply the longer prison sentences that kept criminals off the streets of New York and other cities. [Undoubtedly right.]

The prison terms don't explain why crime fell sooner and more sharply in New York than elsewhere, but Professor Levitt accounts for that, too. One reason he cites is that the crack epidemic eased earlier in New York than in other cities. [Right, but why did the crack wars begin earlier in NYC?] Another, more important, reason is that New York added lots of cops in the early 90's. [Likely, although motivation matters too, as Tierney notes later.]

But the single most important cause, he says, was an event two decades earlier: the legalization of abortion in New York State in 1970, three years before it was legalized nationally by the Supreme Court.

The result, he maintains, was a huge reduction in the number of children who would have been at greater than average risk of becoming criminals during the 1990's.

No, there was not a big reduction in the number of children. Instead, there was a big increase in the number of conceptions. Let me quote Levitt's own book on what actually happened after the legalization of abortion: "Conceptions rose by nearly 30 percent, but births actually fell by 6 percent …"

Growing up as an unwanted child is itself a risk factor, he says, and the women who had abortions were disproportionately likely to be unmarried teenagers with low incomes and poor education - factors that also increase the risk.

This sounds plausible until you look at the illegitimacy rate, which continued to skyrocket. Instead, what happened was that more women got pregnant outside of marriage, and more boyfriends refused to marry them on the grounds that they could get an abortion instead. Some got abortions, some didn't, and the percentage of babies unwanted by their fathers went up.

But he says the correlations are clear: crime declined earlier in the states that had legalized abortion before Roe v. Wade, and it declined more in places with high abortion rates, like New York.

This shows how Levitt wins minds by framing the debate as why the murder rate went down instead of why did it first go up and then go down? But why not ask why the teen murder rate went up first in the places like New York that had lots of abortions in the early 1970s? It's logically bizarre to focus on purported later effects of abortion and resolutely ignore potential earlier effects.

Some criminologists have quarreled with his statistics, but the theory was looking robust at the end of the debate in Manhattan. Mr. Gladwell, while raising what he called a few minor quibbles, seemed mostly persuaded by the numbers.

"My first inclination," he joked at the beginning of his rebuttal, "is to say that everything you just heard from Steven Levitt, even though it contradicts things I have written, is true."

Gladwell appears a little out of his league in dealing with Levitt.

That's my inclination, too, as a less successful exponent of the same theory. (In 1995 I explained the crime decline with my version of the tipping point, the Squeegee Watershed, which became neither a buzzword nor a best seller.) In retrospect, the New York crime story looks like a classic bit of conventional wisdom, as the term was originally defined by John Kenneth Galbraith: an idea that becomes commonly accepted because it is "what the community as a whole or particular audiences find acceptable."

Well, a lot of people find the abortion-cuts-crime theory very comforting, even if they won't say it in public. But the issue is hardly whether it's comforting or not, but whether it's true.

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

April 15, 2005

Show me the evidence:

I spent some time on the phone and emailing with Steven Levitt back in 1999, so I think I can explain the origin of his abortion-cuts-crime theory pretty fairly. After he became a father for the first time, he started thinking about the huge number of legal abortions, tens of millions over the last several decades. (My impression is that he is more pro-life than pro-choice).

So, he thought to himself, That must have had some kind of effect on society. (Actually, plausible as that sounds, as his further research showed, most of those abortions were of fetuses that wouldn't have been conceived if abortion hadn't been legalized, so the actual effect on who is alive today isn't as large, or at least it's not as direct, as he'd originally assumed.)

So, he thought to himself: what's changed that's driving down the crime rate in the later 1990s. How about the legalization of abortion in the early 1970s? Criminals tend to be in their early 20s, so the timing seems right.

He looked at some crime data for 1985 and 1997, and noticed that crime had declined more on average in high abortion states like New York. So, he and John J. Donohue wrote up a draft paper suggesting abortion cut crime and started discussing it at academic conferences, where it got a respectful hearing. In August of 1999, the paper got leaked to the Chicago Tribune, which splashed it big.

It struck me when I read it as possible but not for certain, so I started looking into it. Greg Cochran pointed out that if you look at murder rates per year over the century, they go up and down a lot long before abortion was legalized. With that in mind, I started looking at the murder rates by age cohort and it quickly jumped out at me that they had gone through a vast upheaval between 1985 and 1997 that overwhelmed any effect related to abortion: namely, the crack wars.

Young men born in the years after legalization (1970 in NY and California, where the crack wars got started, 1973 in the rest of the country) became extraordinarily murderous in the late 1980s and early 1990s. You could hardly attribute the post-legalization cohort's better behavior in the late 1990s to abortion being legalized without also attributing to abortion their horrible behavior in the early 1990s. If there is an abortion effect, common sense says that it should impact people earlier in life, rather than later when all sorts of other factors have had more time to have an impact. But it was the post-legalization young who went on the worst youth murder spree in American history. In fact, you could make just about as strong a case that the legalization of abortion contributed to the murder spree by post-legalization youth.

Why did crime go down earlier in high abortion states? The cracks wars tended to burn out earliest in places where they got started earliest, which typically were high abortion cities that had had liberal politics, like NYC, LA, and Washington D.C. (where abortion was de facto legal from 1970 onward). Meanwhile, the crack wars spread in the 1990s to more conservative, low-abortion states in the hinterland, driving up the crime rate there.

This news came as a surprise to Levitt when we debated his theory in Slate in 1999, because he hadn't really thought about what happened in between his datapoints in 1985 and 1997, even though it was huge news at the time.

This is where the story gets mysterious. Rather than say, Oh, well, it was just an unpublished paper, Levitt kept on pushing his abortion-cut-crime idea, making that the most hyped element in his book Freakonomics, despite having lots of other material that he could have given the primary emphasis to instead.

He's never come up with simple answers to my challenges. He's instead upped the statistical complexity level of his explanations to the point where people generally feel they have to take his explanations on faith. He's nice guy, so lots of people decide to trust him rather than go through all the work of crunching the numbers for themselves. But, under the mild-mannered exterior, he does have a bit of a stubborn ego, which I guess is the solution to the mystery. The shame is that he's a bright guy and doesn't need this one theory to make his reputation.

So, here's some new data that I don't think has ever been published in a readable table before It's the FBI's homicide offending rates per 100,000, with columns being ages (even ages only) and the rows being the approximate birth years (for the full table, click here). Pick an age out and scan down and see if you can see if legalization (1970-1973) had an effect that you can notice. (For graphs of this data, click here.)

Homicide Offending Rates by Birth Year by Age 1980-2002


14 16 18 20 22 24 26 28 30
Approx. Birth Year 1958

29 24 18 19 18


24 20 18 19 18


31 25 22 21 18 20


27 23 21 17 19 20


28 27 22 19 18 19 17


27 25 21 22 18 21 16

16 24 25 24 22 20 18 15

14 24 25 26 22 21 20 15

1966 4 14 19 30 26 26 23 17 14

1967 4 14 19 31 28 25 21 18 13

1968 3 11 24 39 31 23 19 16 12

1969 4 13 26 39 37 26 17 13 12
CA, NY Legalized 1970 3 15 30 41 33 26 17 14 11

1971 3 16 37 53 37 26 16 13 11

1972 4 21 49 51 33 23 17 13 13
Roe v. Wade 1973 5 24 61 56 34 23 14 14

1974 6 32 57 52 33 21 18 15

1975 7 34 61 47 29 18 17

1976 7 36 62 45 28 20 19

1977 8 39 50 40 27 20

1978 8 38 48 40 26 22

1979 10 32 42 34 26

1980 9 25 35 35 27

1981 8 21 32 37

1982 6 15 29 35

1983 4 13 33

1984 3 11 25

I've put in bold the maximum murder rate for each age group. For 14 year olds, for example, the worst cohort was those born in about 1979 (so, their peak murder year was around 1993). For 16 year olds, 1977. For 18 year olds -- and the highest murder rate for any age -- was for those born about 1976 (peaking about 1994). For 20 year olds, 1973. For 22 year olds, 1969 and 1971. And so forth.

What you can see is that there were two murder peaks over the last 30 years. The first was the powder cocaine wars that peaked around 1980, when the killers tended to be in their 20s and older. The second was the vast crack cocaine wars that peaked around 1990-1994, and the killers became progressively younger as the wars went on.

The crack wars were fought much more by teenagers than the earlier crime waves, and most of those were born after legalization in their region, especially because of how much the early legalizing of abortion New York area dominated the crack wars in the early years. What made the crack years so murderous was the entry into the killing of so many teens -- exactly the generation that was theorized by Levitt to have been culled by abortion into law-abidingness.

Now, the abortion rate was higher in the later 1970s than right after legalization, so I suppose Levitt could argue that there just wasn't enough abortion after legalization for the Levitt Effect to work its magic. But, the abortion rate for blacks went up quite fast right after legalization (probably because of urbanization), and it was of course young black males whose homicide rate went through the roof during the crack wars. So, that's not a very persuasive argument. Black fetuses were getting aborted in very large numbers in the mid-1970s, but the survivors are exactly among whom the murder rate rose the most during the crack wars.

So, look at that table and if you can see the Levitt Effect, let me know because I sure can't.

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

April 14, 2005

"History is written not so much by the victors as by the writers of history"

In Slate.com, Pressbox columnist Jack Shafer writes:

In Buried by the Times: The Holocaust and America's Most Important Newspaper, Laurel Leff [a professor of Journalism at Northeaster] condemns Times Publisher Arthur Hays Sulzberger for keeping the Nazis' atrocities against the Jews off Page One during World War II... "No American newspaper was better positioned to highlight the Holocaust than the Times, and no American newspaper so influenced public discourse by its failure to do so," she writes.

Buried by the Times makes the most persuasive case against the paper, arguing that it failed in its journalistic mission by not explaining that Hitler was killing Jews because they were Jews. Leff counts 1,186 stories about the Jews of Europe in the paper between the war's start in 1939 and its conclusion in 1945. Only 26 of those stories made it to Page One, and only six of them explicitly stated that Jews were the main target of the Nazis.

By the time the paper celebrated its 150th anniversary in 2001, it agreed so fully with Leff's assessment that former executive editor Max Frankel cited her work in a Times feature.

"No single explanation seems to suffice for what was surely the century's bitterest journalistic failure. The Times, like most
media of that era, fervently embraced the wartime policies of the American and British governments, both of which strongly resisted proposals to rescue Jews or to offer them haven," Frankel writes.

Frankel wrote in 2001 in a 150th anniversary retrospective on the history of the New York Times:

AND then there was failure: none greater than the staggering, staining failure of The New York Times to depict Hitler's methodical extermination of the Jews of Europe as a horror beyond all other horrors in World War II -- a Nazi war within the war crying out for illumination.

I had the following exchange in November of 2001 with the Times' former Executive Editor. I wrote:

Dear Mr. Frankel:

I read your article "Turning Away from the Holocaust" with some interest, especially the statement:

"No single explanation seems to suffice for what was surely the century's bitterest journalistic failure."

If not giving enough publicity to the Holocaust was "the century's bitterest journalistic failure," then what do you call the long series of outright lies the New York Times published denying Stalin's even more deadly campaigns of mass murder in the Thirties? The Times still takes credit for this pro-Stalin fiction every time it prints the list of Times writers to have won the Pulitzer Prize. Right there at the top of the list is Walter Duranty - 1932. Isn't it time to renounce that Pulitzer and issue an apology to the millions of surviving relatives?

Steve Sailer

Frankel replied:

The Times has openly acknowledged that Duranty's coverage was seriously flawed and his picture among our Pulitzer winners at the office carries that notation. But the former publisher, Arthur O. Sulzberger, decided that there's no way to "return" a prize at this late date, that its mistaken award is simply part of history.

As to which failure was more bitter, I dare say many people would have still other nominations. I had in mind the failure at the Times, but what made it especially bitter was that The Times no doubt influenced coverage of the Holocaust throughout the rest of American journalism. That was not true in Duranty's time; many other papers and journals gave excellent accounts of events in Stalin's Russia.

Thanks for your interest.

max f.

In other words, because Duranty's lies were being shown up as lies in less influential newspapers, that makes it not so bad. And, anyway, Duranty's lies about the Ukrainian Holocaust are now all part of history's rich pageant, and who are we to rewrite history?

I replied to Frankel, with quotes from him in italics:

Let's try an analogy. Say a New York Times reporter had won the 1944 Pulitzer Prize for numerous NYT articles denying the existence of Hitler's campaign of mass murder. Would your response be the following?

"The Times has openly acknowledged that our reporter's coverage was seriously flawed and his picture among our Pulitzer winners at the office carries that notation. But the former publisher, Arthur O. Sulzberger, decided that there's no way to "return" a prize at this late date, that its mistaken award is simply part of history."

You write:

> As to which failure was more bitter, I dare say many people would have still other nominations.

Herbert Matthews' NYT coverage of Castro in 1958 leaps to mind, as does James Reston's NYT writings about Mao in 1972. The NYT seems to have had a recurring problem with being seduced by mass murdering totalitarians. Nonetheless, there is widespread agreement among morally serious people (i.e., people who believe that all victims of mass murder are created equal, rather than those who believe that some are more equal than others) that Duranty's performance stands out as the most egregious American journalistic performance of the last century.

> I had in mind the failure at the Times, but what made it especially bitter was that The Times no doubt influenced coverage of the Holocaust throughout the rest of American journalism. That was not true in Duranty's time; many other papers and journals gave excellent accounts of events in Stalin's Russia.

So, you are saying that the Times' editors were reading the truth in other publications about Stalin's genocidal campaign against Ukrainians and his other mass murders, yet chose to print Duranty's lies instead? And, therefore, that's a less bitter failure of journalism than its WWII performance of printing the truth about the Holocaust, but not giving it the banner headlines it deserved?

You also seem to be implying that the NYT's lies about Stalinism in the early Thirties were less influential than their muted truthtelling about the Holocaust while it was happening.

That makes no logical sense. If I was worried that mass murder might possibly be happening, I would be much more influenced by the New York Times telling me over and over again (in Stalin's case) NO, EVERYTHING IS HUNKY-DORY. THOSE RUMORS ARE JUST REACTIONARY PROPAGANDA than (in Hitler's case) telling me now and then on P. 17 that, yes, mass murder is happening, the rumors are true.

Further, I'm not aware of any historical evidence the NYT's mistakes were luckily less influential in Stalin's case than in Hitler's. Certainly, American government policy toward Stalin from 1933 through 1945 was based largely on wishful thinking. And American intellectual life during that period was severely diseased by Stalin-worship. The NYT deserves a definite share of the blame for this.

Will you be publishing a reconsideration of your judgment?

Steve Sailer

Strangely enough, Frankel didn't reply a second time.


Note: While I frequently print emails, I always strip off any identifying attributions. In this case, however, the contents were so unbelievable that after thinking about it for over three years, when I saw that Laurel Leff had published a book on Frankel's topic, I finally decided to break my own rule.


If Mr. Frankel wants to find out what his newspaper was up to during the Ukrainian Holocaust, he can read Sally J. Taylor's 1990 biography: Stalin's Apologist: Walter Duranty, the New York Times's Man in Moscow (now out of print, surprise, surprise).

One little known fact about Duranty was that before World War I he had been a leading Satanist, the right hand man of the world's top Satan-worshipper, Aleister Crowley. (I'm not making this up.)


Let's be frank: history is not written by the victors. The truth about who writes history isn't well understood, even though it's tautological:

History is written by the writers of history.

What that means, in practical terms, is that if the Ukrainians want their Holocaust to stop being ignored, well, they'll just have to become executive editors and professors of journalism and columnists and historians and movie producers and documentarians and all the rest. The Ukrainians will have to do it themselves. People care about avenging their relatives' victimizations a lot more than they care about fair historical balance.


Orwell wrote in "Notes on Nationalism" in October 1945:

Actions are held to be good or bad, not on their own merits, but according to who does them, and there is almost no kind of outrage — torture, the use of hostages, forced labour, mass deportations, imprisonment without trial, forgery, assassination, the bombing of civilians — which does not change its moral colour when it is committed by ‘our’ side. The Liberal News Chronicle published, as an example of shocking barbarity, photographs of Russians hanged by the Germans, and then a year or two later published with warm approval almost exactly similar photographs of Germans hanged by the Russians. It is the same with historical events. History is thought of largely in nationalist terms, and such things as the Inquisition, the tortures of the Star Chamber, the exploits of the English buccaneers (Sir Francis Drake, for instance, who was given to sinking Spanish prisoners alive), the Reign of Terror, the heroes of the Mutiny blowing hundreds of Indians from the guns, or Cromwell’s soldiers slashing Irishwomen’s faces with razors, become morally neutral or even meritorious when it is felt that they were done in the ‘right’ cause. If one looks back over the past quarter of a century, one finds that there was hardly a single year when atrocity stories were not being reported from some part of the world; and yet in not one single case were these atrocities — in Spain, Russia, China, Hungary, Mexico, Amritsar, Smyrna — believed in and disapproved of by the English intelligentsia as a whole. Whether such deeds were reprehensible, or even whether they happened, was always decided according to political predilection.

For quite six years the English admirers of Hitler contrived not to learn of the existence of Dachau and Buchenwald. And those who are loudest in denouncing the German concentration camps are often quite unaware, or only very dimly aware, that there are also concentration camps in Russia. Huge events like the Ukraine famine of 1933, involving the deaths of millions of people, have actually escaped the attention of the majority of English russophiles. Many English people have heard almost nothing about the extermination of German and Polish Jews during the present war. Their own antisemitism has caused this vast crime to bounce off their consciousness.

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

April 13, 2005

The Abortion-Crime Graphs Steven D. Levitt Won't Show You in Freakonomics:

I see that Levitt's book Freakonomics, which argues that legalizing abortion cut crime, is now the #2 bestseller on Amazon.com. I also note that Amazon first posted, then yanked, my reader review poking holes in his theory, presumably to avoid casting a pall upon the sellathon.

So, here are two graphs from my article in the May 9th issue of The American Conservative.

First, Levitt's theory is predicated -- at least publicly -- on abortion reducing the proportion of "unwanted" babies, who are presumed to be more likely to grow up to be criminals. The empirical problem with this is that legalization (which occurred in California, New York, and three other states in 1970 and nationally in 1973), didn't put the slightest dent in the illegitimacy rate, which is, by far, the most obvious objective sign of not being wanted by the mother and father, and has been linked repeatedly with crime:

You'll note that the growth in the illegitimacy rate didn't start to slow down until the mid-1990s when the abortion rate finally went down a considerable amount.

My article offers a simple explanation, drawn from Levitt's own research, of why legal abortion tends to increase illegitimacy.

Second, the acid test of Levitt's theory is that it predicts that the first cohort to survive being culled by legal abortion should have been particularly law-abiding. Instead, they went on the worst teen murder rampage in American history. Here's a graph showing the homicide rate for 14-17 year olds, and below each year is the average birthdate of the 14-17 year old cohort.

For example, the 14-17 year olds in the not particularly murderous year of 1976 were, on average, born about 1960 (i.e., 1976 - 16 years of age = 1960), so they didn't "benefit" from being culled by legalized abortion the way that the 14-17 years olds during the peak murder years of 1993 and 1994 should have benefited, according to Levitt.

In contrast, the homicide rate for the 25 and over cohort (none of whom enjoyed the benefits of legalized abortion) was lower in 1993 than in 1983.

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

How Bad Memes Remove Themselves from the Gene Pool

From a marriage announcement in the NYT:

Dr. Debbara Jean Dingman and Daniel John DeNoon were married last evening at the Commerce Club in Atlanta. The Rev. Grover E. Criswell, a Disciples of Christ minister, performed the nondenominational ceremony.

Dr. Dingman, 49, will keep her name. She is a clinical psychologist in private practice and also an adjunct assistant professor of psychology at Georgia State University and a faculty member at the Pine River Psychotherapy Training Institute, all in Atlanta.

The bride graduated from Florida State University and received both a master's degree and a doctorate in psychology from Georgia State University.

Mr. DeNoon, 53, is a senior writer in Atlanta for the news department of WebMD.com, a medical information Web site. He graduated from Emory University.

Dr. Dingman and Mr. DeNoon met at an Atlanta jazz club in 1978, where she was a hostess and he a bartender.

Dr. Dingman, in the spirit of feminism at that time, called herself Debbie "Dingperson," without cracking a smile, she said.

Their attraction to one another was immediate. As they got to know each other better, they found they also had other things in common - the love of "good food, travel, old hotels," and their political beliefs, Dr. Dingman recalled. But it was their different approaches to social activism and feminism that added conflict, or perhaps spice, to an already intense relationship.

"Everything had to be totally discussed and negotiated," Mr. DeNoon recalled. "What I considered courteous - pulling out her chair, opening a door - she would take as an insult."

Dr. Dingman added: "We had an ability to argue about everything. He would order wine, and I'd be upset that he did it without consulting me. And then we'd argue about the migrant workers who picked the grapes. There was a real push-pull to our relationship."

Still, after about a year, they - and their friends - recognized that they were indeed a couple. But Dr. Dingman and Mr. DeNoon were not interested in marrying. They wanted a relationship that was "more egalitarian," she said. "More feminist. More in line with what our gay and lesbian friends did." This arrangement, in effect, required that the two continually review their decision to stay together. "We would choose each other each day," Dr. Dingman said, adding, "it was inefficient but romantic."

Two years ago they began changing their minds about marriage, acknowledging that both they and society were evolving.

"Gloria Steinem was one of my heroes," Dr. Dingman said. "When she married several years ago, it was instructive to me that I should not reject the institution of marriage out of hand."

Mr. DeNoon said he became more interested in marrying when marriage became a legal option for same-sex couples. He and Dr. Dingman attended the commitment ceremony of lesbian friends, and were impressed with that couple's public celebration of their love.

"We realized that we can say in front of everybody we know that, yes, we do indeed love one another, and that's not going to change tomorrow morning," he said.

Fortunately, after 27 years of this, they are too old to reproduce and perpetuate their genes. May their memes be as infertile.

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

Harvard Law Review vs. Reality

Harvard Law Review vs. Reality: A reader writes:

This article, "Trojan Horses of Race" by Jerry Kang of UCLA, is in the new Harvard Law Review. (118 Harv. L. Rev. 1489 (2005)).

I thought you might be interested in is thesis, which is that (1) the FCC deregulated media ownership rules in order to increase the availability of local news; (2) local news shows a lot of stories about violent crime committed by racial minorities; (3) this causes whites to be _irrationally_ afraid of racial minorities; and (4) therefore, there is too much local news and the FCC should use a different standard in evaluating whether to relax ownership rules.

Extraordinary, no?

Rather than the federal government, in effect, censoring local television news to prevent Americans from understanding the truth about the crime problem, wouldn't a better win-win solution for all concerned be for blacks and Hispanics to stop committing more crimes than Asians and whites?

That reminds me of a major problem in Britain that complements the lack of federalism, and both together contribute to its terrible crime rate. The press is overwhelmingly concentrated in London and focuses on more glamorous national and international issues rather than on mundane local problems like crime. The Guardian, for example, used to be the Manchester Guardian, but that was a long time ago. Crime is left for the sensationalistic tabloids, and thus the whole issue is considered declasse. You can see the same bias at work with the Los Angeles Times, which has pretences to being a national newspapers, so it studiously ignores the crime problems caused by illegal immigration in Los Angeles. Fortunately, there are local newspapers like the LA Daily News that crusade for a better life for Los Angelenos, and local radio programs like the John and Ken Show.

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

April 12, 2005

Did Legalizing Abortion Cut Crime?

"Meet the economist who figured out that legal abortion was behind dropping crime rates" burbles Steven E. Landsburg on the Wall Street Journal's OpinionJournal.com site. Yes, it's more hype for Steven D. Levitt's new book Freakonomics. Landsburg writes:

Back in 1999, Mr. Levitt was trying to figure out why crime rates had fallen so dramatically in the previous decade. He was struck by the fact that crime began falling nationwide just 18 years after the Supreme Court effectively legalized abortion. He was struck harder by the fact that in five states crime began falling three years earlier than it did everywhere else. These were exactly the five states that had legalized abortion three years before Roe v. Wade.

Did crime fall because hundreds of thousands of prospective criminals had been aborted? Once again, the pattern by itself is not conclusive, but once again Mr. Levitt piles pattern on pattern until the evidence overwhelms you. The bottom line? Legalized abortion was the single biggest factor in bringing the crime wave of the 1980s to a screeching halt.

I first debated with Levitt over whether legalized abortion cut crime way back in Slate.com in 1999. My new article in the May 9, 2005 edition of The American Conservative (available to electronic subscribers this weekend) punches a big hole in Levitt's abortion-cut-crime theory. Here's a brief excerpt:

"According to Levitt's logic, murder should have declined first among the youngest and last among the oldest. Did it?

"Unfortunately for Levitt, the opposite is true. The murder rate for Americans age 25 and over started falling way back in 1981 (when the youngest person in this cohort was born in 1956) and fell fairly steadily for two decades. Indeed, in contrast to his theory about post-Roe individuals being especially law-abiding, the adult murder rate has only begun to creep back up now that people born after Roe have begun to make up a noticeable fraction of those 25 and up. From 1999 through 2002 (the latest year available, when a 25 year old would have born four years after Roe), the murder rate among 25-34 year olds has risen 17 percent, while continuing to drop among the under 25s.

"But the acid test of Levitt's theory is this: Did the first New, Improved Generation culled by legalized abortion actually grow up to be more lawful teenagers than the last generation born before legalization?

"Hardly. Instead, the first cohort to survive legalized abortion went on the worst youth murder spree in American history.

"Abortion became legal in 1970 in California, New York, and three minor states, and was legalized in the other 45 states in 1973 by the Supreme Court in Roe v. Wade. Let's compare the murder rate of 14-17 year olds in 1983 (who were born in the last pre-legalization years of 1965-1969) with that of 14-17 years olds a decade later in 1993 (who were born in the high-abortion years of 1975-1979).

"Was this post-Roe cohort better behaved than their pre-legalization elders? Not exactly. Their murder rate was 3.1 times worse.

"In contrast, 18-24 year olds in 1993 (some born before legalization, some after) committed 86 percent more murders than a decade earlier, while people 25 and up (all born before legalization) were 18 percent _less_ lethal.

Back in 1983, 14-17 year olds were barely more than half has likely as 25-34 years olds to kill. In 1993 and 1994, however, this purportedly better-bred generation of juveniles was more than twice as deadly as 25-34 year olds."

A lot of naive reviewers like Landsburg are going to make fools out of themselves because Levitt and Dubner failed to mention any of these massive problems with Levitt's theory in their book Freakonomics. To get the full story on how legalizing abortion might even have caused the murder rate to go up, get the May 9th edition of The American Conservative.

Graphs from upcoming article are now online at: http://isteve.blogspot.com/2005/04/abortion-crime-graphs-steven-d-levitt.html

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

Theory of Beauty:

Armand Marie Leroi says on Edge.org:

What of human physical beauty? This is something that interests me greatly. I'm not interested in the general aesthetic question here, but ourselves. Some people say that beauty is uninteresting and that it's just a matter of taste. I don't think so. I would say, and there are others who would certainly agree with me, that we have a general psychological program from which stems a universal notion of beauty. Incidentally, this idea that we all perceive certain features to be beautiful is one that Darwin would have disagreed with. Darwin believed that the perception of beauty was particular to particular peoples in particular times and places. He was probably wrong, or at least he was only partly right. I won't attempt to justify that answer, but I think it to be true. These days, the general thinking tends to be that there's a universal notion of beauty which is true for people around the world. And the question is, what is that and what drives it?

Certainly, there are different fashions in different eras, but I suspect the same people would have often tended to wind up on top of the beauty pyramid. If, say, the Madonna of 1991 had been around back in Marilyn Monroe's 1955, Madonna would simply have had the more relaxed body shape fashionable in 1955. I don't know for sure that Marilyn could have achieved Madonna's taut 1991 look, but I suspect she would have come close.

Many people think that beauty is a certificate of health; this is an idea that comes out of sociobiology. But it is more obvious than than that. It's simply the idea that beautiful people are healthy people and we search for healthy mates. And that's probably true. Or at least it was. But is it still? In the past, health was primarily a matter of environmental conditions—your exposure to contagious diseases and the amount of food that you had when you were growing up. Rich people had better environments, hence the positive association between beauty and wealth. But what of modern economically egalitarian societies such as Holland? In such societies, does the ancient association still obtain? If the variance in beauty is due to the variance in the quality of the rearing environment then it must be the case that the Dutch — who all eat much the same good food, live in much the same well-designed houses, and have access to much the same excellent health-care — must all be equivalently beautiful. But is this so? The answer is, of course, no. Among the Dutch you can find good-looking and not so good-looking people. And the question is then, why?

I would argue that the reason for this is that there is and will always be variance in beauty is because there is variance in mutational load. What is beauty fundamentally about? I would argue — and this is really just a postulate at this time, but it is one that interests me a great deal — that the fundamental reason why some of us are more beautiful than others is because of those deleterious mutations that we all carry We may carry 300 deleterious mutations on average, but there is of course a variance associated with that. Not everybody has 300. Some people have more, some people have fewer. If this is true—and statistically it must be true — then someone in the world has the fewest mutations of all. Someone in the world is the least mutant human of all. Indeed, we can actually calculate, making some assumptions about the shape of the distribution, how many mutations that person has — and it turns out to be 191 versus the average of 300. This, to my mind, is surprisingly many. I would suggest that if we could find that person, he or she would be a good candidate for being the most beautiful person in the world. At least she would be, assuming she did not grow up in some impoverished underdeveloped nation. Which, statistically, she will have done since most people do.

If we could use genetic engineering to get rid of all those deleterious mutations -- what Greg Cochran calls "genetic proofreading" -- then we could make people healthier without the risks inherent in trying to change adequate genes to better ones.

Still, I'm not convinced that this all there is to beauty, or at least to feminine beauty which I pay more attention to than masculine beauty.

Exhibit A is a British actress named Tilda Swinton, who recently played the Archangel Gabriel in Keanu Reeves' "Constantine" and is best known as Orlando in the movie version of Virginia Woolf's fable about an immortal, sex-shifting nobleman/woman.

There's no question that Swinton, even in her mid-40s, is beautiful in the objective sense that Leroi is using, but the reason she's not a big star is because her beauty is more androgynous than feminine, which is why she gets roles as angels rather than as romantic leading ladies. She looks a lot like Cate Blanchett (who won the Oscar playing Kate Hepburn), but Swinton makes Blanchett look like Sophia Loren in the ripe womanhood department.

So, female beauty seems to be composed of two parts: A. As Leroi notes, lack of deleterious mutations, lack of infections, and lack of other bad things, and B. Femaleness, and the more the better.

But femaleness as part of beauty leads to questions like: If 36-24-36 is good, why wouldn't 40-20-40 be better? Judging from cartoon characters, the males of the world would be all for 40-20-40 women, in theory, but in practice, they would probably tend to fall over a lot, develop back problems, and have lots of other health and safety difficulties. In other words, while sexual selection pushes for 40-20-40, natural selection, such as getting eaten by sabre-tooth tigers because less voluptuous girls from your tribe can outrun you, pushes against it.

Similarly, in "Constantine," a semi-androgynous demon named Balthazar is played Gavin Rossdale, singer for the band Bush, who has the classic high-cheekbones of a rock star. Johnny Depp, who moved to Hollywood to become a singer, has a classic rock star's face with his high cheekbones and delicate jaw. (In the sequel to "Pirates of the Caribbean," his father will be played by Rolling Stone Keith Richards). Depp is beautiful in Leroi's sense, but when he's supposed to play a regular guy, like in "Donnie Brasco," he's kind of funny looking because he's not very masculine.

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer