Freakonomics abortion/crime claim takes a hit

class=img_thumbleft>Here's a note for everyone with a copy of Steven Levitt's monster bestseller Freakonomics sitting on a nightstand or beside a toilet: The Wall Street Journal reports that a new paper written by a pair of economists from the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston undercuts the book's most notorious claim--that there is a direct correlation between the legalizing of abortion and a decline in the crime rate some 20 years later. Christopher Foote and Christopher Goetz say Levitt's claim falls apart when you correct for two errors in his statistical analysis: the omission of a formula that would have made it possible to spot other potential factors (like the crack wave of the '90s), and the failure to adjust for changes in the overall population between the 1970s and 1990s. Notes WSJ reporter Jon Hilsenrath: "After he adjusted for both factors, Mr. Foote says, the abortion effect disappeared."

The story is not one of the Journal's daily free features, unfortunately, but if there is not enough wonk in your Monday, you can read the Foote/Goetz paper that the story is based on here.