June 19, 2007

Abortion and wantedness

In the WSJ:

It's Not Enough to Be 'Wanted'
Illegitimacy has risen despite--indeed, because of--legal abortion.

And here's a graph I made up a few years ago during the Freakonomics controversy. Hard to see much evidence that legalizing abortion increased the "wantedness" of babies like Steven D. Levitt claims these days, now that he figured out he'd get in trouble if he mentioned that he originally attributed 39% of his theorized crime-fighting effect to the much higher abortion rate seen among blacks.

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


Anonymous said...

Isn't Lott the one who made up data to support the more guns, less crime thesis? How is this guy still being published?

Ron Guhname said...

Wow, what a great piece by Lott.

What a pleasure it always is to see an economist's sophisticated research methods used against liberals' most cherished ideas.

Anonymous said...

Kevin, I don't believe that Lott fabricated any data for his book "More Guns, Less Crime" but he did fabricate at least one "user review" of it.

Dennis Dale said...

There's a gruesome assumption I've always made, concerning abortion:
That legalization also ensures an ever-growing number of abortions, not just that a certain percentage of unwanted pregnancies will end in abortion, at least until some sort of plateu is reached. That it effectively becomes a birth control method giving greater sexual license.
I wonder if anyone has tried to verify and quantify this effect?

Anonymous said...

Kevin -- he did not make up the data. He acted as a Glen Greenwald sock puppet.

The person who made up the data was Michael Belisles, who is a gun-grabber, elitist, anti-populist. He was fired from Emory after it was shown he'd made up his data.

Lott did not make up his data, merely did the usual liberal thing of tooting his own horn (journalists do this also, notably a LAT journalist at Patterico) under a pseudonym.

Nevertheless, reading Steve's graph (excellent Steve) unless I'm misreading things I see a clear trend line from 1955 to 1994 of illegitimacy increasing year-by-year in linear form, until it levels off by 1994. CLEARLY abortion's availability is not the cause of illegitimacy since the trend line clearly shows a linear rise for twenty years before Roe v. Wade.

An alternative explanation for the declining legitimacy rate could be:

Women in the post-war period throughout the Globe, have mostly had with a few exceptions, experienced rising incomes, education, and freedoms as part of modernization and Westernization.

Having independent means, women do NOT need to compromise in their search for the higher status man, rather than get married women choose to have children on their own, as they can both afford them and there is no social stigma (a result of more freedom for women).

The trend towards illegitimacy could also be accelerated by couples living together before/instead-of marrying. Particularly since couples who don't marry before children don't tend to stay together.

And most importantly, women with both a social safety net (perceived anyway) and independent incomes don't have to compromise in times past.

To whom is Abortion important anyway? Poor black/latina women never protest when it's threatened, only middle-upper class women seem to show up and form the membership of NARAL etc.

SOMETHING massively changed in Western society after WWII (and pretty much elsewhere too). Very likely it was the growth of female wealth and independence. Low fertility rates in wealthy countries may simply be the function of women in those countries refusing the average joe in pursuit of the Alpha male. Illegitimacy rates particularly among blacks may also reflect that desire for status, refusal to "settle" but still the desire for children. So you have women having five kids with three fathers rather than one designer baby late in life. Neither particularly optimal for the good of the children and society.

Anonymous said...

I think that fact that abortion shows no affect on illegitimacy rates indicates that illegitimacy is primarily tied to what the father wants, not what the mother does. Even before Roe V Wade, women had adption, men still have no choice whatsoever. The state will still force them to provide financially for a child regardless of what they want.

As long as the state provides for the mother and forces the father to do the same, theres little reason for a mother to not want a child solely because she knows it will be illegitimate.

Anonymous said...

Lott apparently did fabricate (or could not provide a source) for one of the figures he cited frequently: that 98% of defensive gun use involved no more than brandishing the weapon to scare off the attacker. When challeneged, he offered a surprisingly Bellsiles-like explanation, that a bookcase-collapse destroyed his computer (Bellesiles claimed a flood destroyed his notebooks which contained the data proving his claims about historical gun ownership).

Lott's other claims about the effects of guns on crime rates are based on accepted numbers, though.

Unknown said...

I started to speculate on the reason illegitimacy rates might climb despite the legalization of abortion then realized there's not a whole lot of information in the graph.

Illegitimacy rates were climbing before 1970 and appear to have climbed at a steady rate. From what I know about sociology, those who were born illegitimate were more likely to have illegitimate children themselves. It's a behaviorial issue. Children followed the bad example of their parents.

Wasn't the pill introduced in the early 60's about the time the illegitimacy rates started to rise?

I also know that this affected the black community more than any other but not from this graph. I think Steve knows this too. Are you misleading us deliberately?

Ron Guhname said...

Taylor: Nobody is claiming that abortion is the only cause in the rise of illegitimacy(ILL). ILL is an indicator of how many babies are being born into circumstances the parents don't want. According to pro-choice logic, if women are free to abort, the number of babies born into circumstances parents don't want will decline. If such logic were correct, we should see ILL begin to fall around Steve's arrow. It didn't. It continued to rise at the same rate, and even accelerated in the 80s. There is no deception going on here.

Unknown said...


If the data were sorted according to race or class, the results would be different for different subgroups. The illegitimacy rate for whites or the upper-middle class would be lower than that for blacks. In fact, I think whites have used abortion to reduce the number of children born out of wedlock.

While the graph is useful if your sole purpose is to argue that access to abortion hasn't been a panacea for societal ills, it doesn't offer enough detail to be accurate. Misleading is too strong a word but important details are missing.

Ron Guhname said...

Taylor: You're right that ILL rates vary by race: it's currently about 70% for blacks and one-third for whites. But both increased in the 70s and 80s.

Anonymous said...

The dog that isn't barking here is the shotgun weddings that aren't happening anymore. My parents married when my older sister was conceived, and had three more kids and were married 43 years (Dad died, car crash.) We were a happy family and all four kids turned out at least halfay decent.

My mother's sister was also a "Browning Bride" and it was a disaster. She's penniless and on welfare: her first son killed himself (ironically, with a 16 gauge Browning!) at 19, that husband left her with two small kids and, she soon found out, a third in the oven. Both her surviving kids are trashburgers. Her ex did the same thing two more times: the third wife ratted him out to the FBI for bank fraud and he's in Leavenworth.

You have to factor in the good marriages and successful kids that would NOT have been here if there was no abortion.