Thursday, July 07, 2005

Steve Sailer is on my radar again, tearing into both James Taranto's Roe Effect theory, and Steven Levitt's Roe crime-fighting argument.

For those who haven't encountered these ideas, they go like this:

Taranto argues that the legalization of abortion allows pro-abortion types (IE, liberals) to limit their reproduction, while abortion opponents reproduce at a higher clip. One or two generations later, there will naturally be fewer pro-choice types - because their parents aborted their hypothetical brothers and sisters - and more pro-life types - because their parents were baby machines. Sailer - a conservative just to the left of Pat Buchanan - rather unexpectedly has torn into this particular just-so story, which I was rather taken with, back when I first heard it two years ago. Sailer argues from the statistics - and Sailer is a statistical maniac - that the nominal reduction in births attributable to the introduction of legal abortion is about one-sixth of what "Roe Effect" proponents say it is. He offers numbers that show that unwanted pregnancies increased during the Roe period to a degree that comes close to matching the increase in the rate of abortions. He dismisses the remainder as "not [...] trivial, but it's not very important either".

I still haven't gotten around to reading Levitt and Dunber's Freakonomics, but there's so many excerpts floating around that I'm starting to wonder if I won't end up getting most of the book via blogsphere osmosis. Apparently that theory about the underclass liquidating their potential criminal cohorts via legal abortion is one of the prize theories of Freakonomics. Again, you would think that Sailer would be enthusiastic in his paleoconservative fashion about such an idea, which lays such an ugly light upon Roe. Rather to the contrary, he produces a set of statistics which throws a considerable damper on the idea that Roe is responsible for the Nineties decline in crime, showing that youth crime actually increased per-capita in the post-Roe cohorts, and that the declines in crime were seen in the pre-Roe cohorts in the late Nineties. He argues that the striking swings in crime in the Eighties and Nineties can be explained largely or entirely (I'm not sure which) by the crack epidemic and the social and cultural issues which encouraged it. He flat-out blames abortion for those factors, blaming the availability of abortion for eliminating the "shotgun marriage". I'm not as sold on his argument in this as I was on the Roe Effect matter, as the statistics seem to go by pretty fast. But it's a striking set of counter-intuitive arguments, don't you think?

Initial link via the Corner.

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