Chapter 4 of Freakonomics

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I found chapter 4 of Freakonomics to be very interesting.  Abortion is such a controversial issue and clearly always has been, it’s interesting to see how it could be affecting our society in terms of crime rates.  I like how the chapter started with the issue of abortion in Romania, it was remarkable to read about how these people lived for so long and about the power trip Ceausescu was on.  It’s amazing to think that the children born after the abortion ban did worse in every way measurable than children born beforehand.  But I think it needs to be taken into account that these children not only had parents that did not actually want them, or perhaps weren’t ready for them, but they also were born into a Communist society in which the leader was particularly cruel.  I think that that could definitely increase the possibility of crime rates as opposed to “unexpected” children born into a peaceful and fair society.

The chapter switches to American crime rates and entertains a variety of explanations for the unexpected drop in crime in the 1990s.  These explanations include: innovative police strategies, increased reliance on prisons, changes in crack and other drug markets, aging of the population, gun-control laws, strong economy, and an increased number of police.  A lot of statistics were given in order to explain the significance of these possible reasons for a drop in crime.  I thought the statistics presented regarding death row were very surprising: “Even among prisoners on death row, the annual execution rate is only 2 percent—compared with the 7 percent annual chance of dying faced by a member of the Black Gangster Disciple Nation crack gang (123).”  I think that’s insane! And really sad actually.

Once the information about abortion regarding possible drops in crime rate was presented, I thought it makes a lot of sense.  I was certainly very convinced that there is a causal relationship between legalized abortion and the drop in crime rates once I was done reading the chapter, and further convinced once I read the article.  Even after reading the article regarding the errors made in Donohue and Levitt’s regression, I still think the legalization of abortion had some sort of impact on the crime rate.  Although, if Steven D. Levitt contributed both to writing the book and the article, I guess that doesn’t really add to the number of people who have discovered this finding.  I was actually surprised that once the errors were accounted for a significant relationship wasn’t found.  Theoretically, it makes sense that criminals are more likely to grow up in a harsh or unstable environment, which seems like a plausible inference to make about the homes of children who grew up with parents who were literally forced to have them.  Even if it is the case of parents really wanting children someday, that’s not the only factor that makes good parents or successful citizens.  The parents may not be financially able to support a child and having that child could drive them into poverty.

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