April 26, 2014

"Does Abortion Prevent Crime?" Steven D. Levitt's opening statement to Steve Sailer in 1999 "Slate" debate

Below is the first of four parts of a 1999 debate in Slate between U. of Chicago economist Steven D. Levitt, co-author of the 2005 bestseller Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything, and myself, Steve Sailer. We discussed Levitt's most celebrated theory: Did the legalization of abortion in 1969-1973 cause the crime rate to fall? 

I've decided to host this debate on my website because it is of some modest degree of historical importance as the first airing of one of the longer-running social science controversies of the 21st Century, and because Slate deleted our names from their posting of it during a website reorganization. Several years ago, Slate promised to restore our names, but hasn't done so yet. The absence of our names on Slate has made it hard for interested readers to find this using search engines.

AUG. 23 1999 5:32 PM

Does Abortion Prevent Crime?

Part 1 of 4 of a debate between Steven D. Levitt and Steve Sailer

To read more on this topic, see Steve Sailer's 2005 posting after The Economist and the Wall Street Journal revealed that an attempted replication of Levitt's state-level analysis by Boston Fed economists Christopher Foote and Christopher Goetz discovered that Levitt had made a fatal error in his computer code, which explains why Levitt's state-level findings didn't match my national-level analysis in 1999.
Complete debate: Part 1 (Levitt);   Part 2 (Sailer);   Part 3 (Levitt);   Part 4 (Sailer)


manton said...

Slate deleted the names because they didn't want to admit that they ever actually published you, but they also didn't want to take the whole exchange down--too "censory." So the only solution they could come up with was to delete your name, and if they did that, then they had to delete both to make it look consistent--like the way Haldir had to blindfold Legolas as well as Gimli on the approach to Lorien.

I apologize if that is screamingly obvious to everyone. Clearly, Steve knows that's the reason, but for whatever reason he has chosen not to call out Slate for its cowardly revisionism, even though there is zero chance they will ever publish him again.

Steve Sailer said...

Perhaps, but one shouldn't always ascribe to malign intent what can also be explained by not-just-getting-around-to-it.

Anonymous said...

I used to believe in that maxim too, but a couple.years of reading your blog cured me of that naivete.

Whiskey said...

Steve, I think you and Levitt are both wrong. Crime did not go down at all. The stats were simply manipulated, like say, Washington Mutual loan documentation.

Occam's Razor and all.

Luke said...

Classic name for an abortion clinic sited in an inner city location:
"Crimestoppers". ;)

David said...

I have a problem with comparing the violent crime rates of 14-17 year-olds and 25-34 year-olds here. Doesn't the latter age group tend to be less violent than the former anyway, abortion or no abortion? This ought to be checked on, since it seems intuitively obvious that the blood of a 34 year old youth would be cooler on average than that of a 17 year old youth.

I like your "eucultural" point about the result of a lack of respect for human life. It does seem a problematic policy to go about reducing violence by killing millions.