QUARTERLY JOURNALOF ECONOMICS
Vol. CXVI May 2001 Issue 2
THE IMPACT OF LEGALIZED ABORTION ON CRIME*J
We offer evidence that legalized abortion has contributed signicantly torecent crime reductions.Crime began to fall roughly eighteenyears after abortionlegalization. The ve states that allowed abortion in 1970 experienced declinesearlier than the rest of the nation, which legalized in 1973 with
Roe v. Wade.
States with high abortion rates in the 1970s and 1980s experienced greater crimereductions in the 1990s. In high abortion states, only arrests of those born afterabortion legalization fall relative to low abortion states. Legalized abortion ap-pears to account for as much as 50 percent of the recent drop in crime.
Since 1991, the United States has experienced the sharpestdrop in murder rates since the end of Prohibition in 1933. Homi-cide rates have fallen more than 40 percent. Violent crime andproperty crime have each declined more than 30 percent. Hun-dreds of articles discussing this change have appeared in theacademic literature and popular press.
They have offered anarray of explanations: the increasing use of incarceration, growth
* Wewouldliketo thankIanAyres,Gary Becker,CarlBell,AlfredBlumstein,Jonathan Caulkins, Richard Craswell, George Fisher, Richard Freeman, JamesHeckman, Christine Jolls, Theodore Joyce, Louis Kaplow, Lawrence Katz, JohnKennan, John Monahan, Casey Mulligan, Derek Neal, Eric Posner, RichardPosner, Sherwin Rosen, Steve Sailer, Jose´Scheinkman, Peter Siegelman, Kenji Yoshino,and seminarparticipants too numerousto mentionfor helpful commentsand discussions. Craig Estes and Rose Francis provided exceptionally valuableresearch assistance. Correspondence can be addressed to either John Donohue,Crown Quadrangle, Stanford Law School, Stanford, CA 94305, or Steven Levitt,Departmentof Economics, University of Chicago, 1126 E. 59th Street, Chicago,IL60637. Email: email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org. For a sampling of the academic literature, see Blumstein and Wallman and the articles appearing in the 1998 Summer issue (Volume 88) of the
Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology,
especially Blumstein and Rosenfeld, Kelling and Bratton , and Donohue . See Buttereld [1997a,
2001 by the President and Fellows of Harvard College and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
The Quarterly Journal of Economics,