Monday, June 05, 2006

Freakonomics Review

John Mueller looks at the famous book, and its most famous argument, in a review for the Claremont Review of Books. The review itself seems to lose its way about halfway through, but it is interesting to see how other economists responded to the abortion-crime rate argument:

As far back as data exist, rates of economic fatherhood and homicide have been strongly, inversely "cointegrated"—a stringent statistical test characterizing inherently related events, like the number of cars entering and leaving the Lincoln Tunnel. Legalizing abortion didn't lower homicide rates 15-20 years later by eliminating infants who might, if they survived, have become murderers: it raised the homicide rate almost at once by turning their fathers back into men without dependent children—a small but steady share of whom do murder. The homicide rate rose sharply in the 1960s and '70s when expanding welfare and legal abortion sharply reduced economic fatherhood, and it dropped sharply in the '90s partly due to a recovering birth rate, but mostly because welfare reform and incarceration raised the share of men outside prison who were supporting children.
Aha! (I don't really know what any of that means.)

5 comments:

dcat said...

And neither does he, because apparently the difference between alleged correlation and causality escape him. Dring the same time, Major League Baseball expanded -- does this mean that expansion causes murder? he is taking one assertion for which there appears to be data and presenting a plausible but unsubstantiated counterargument that will appeal to the Claremont review's readership if they are willing to suspend their critical faculties for a few minutes.

dcat

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