Chris' Original Blogbeque

A fresh, vinegar-based examination of life

Abortion & Crime in China

Posted by Chris on July 11, 2008

NYC experienced a much-discussed and theorized drop in crime in the 1990s.  I first read about it in a Harvard Business School case study in college, then again in the books Freakonomics and The Tipping Point (Malcolm Gladwell).  Gladwell and Harvard discussed Police Chief William Bratton and Rudy Giuliani’s efforts to clean up crime by increasing the visual presence of police and rooting out the simple crimes.

In Freakonomics, Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner hypothesize that legalized abortion led to the drop in crime.  Roe v. Wade occurred in 1973, so as the 1990s came, there was a much smaller population of young men born in circumstances linked to higher crime rates (poverty, single moms) than there would have been.  I neither agree nor disagree with their conclusion and they are clear that it is not a moral statement.  If you want to better understand their theory (and see how they use data to back it up), read the book.

Today, the Freakonomics Blog has an interesting post on a related issue in China.  The One-Child policy has led to a gender imbalance in China as parents select to have one son.  In many circumstances this has (allegedly, but supported by the data and anectodal evidence) led to sex-selective abortion and infanticide.  With more boys than girls, people have begun to wonder what effects this could have as these boys and girls become men and women.  Theories abound: increases in sex trafficking, some kind of polygamy (I forget the name, something like slave wives) where one wife is shared by many husbands, frustrated men who cannot find wives, and other general breakdowns in the social structure.  So, I’m not extremely shocked to read that…

In The New Republic, Mara Hvistendahl reports that as the first generation of one-child boys have reached adolescence, the youth crime rate in China has more than doubled, as idle and frustrated boys turn to crime “without specific motives, often without forethought.”

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One Response to “Abortion & Crime in China”

  1. Rob said

    Not really surprising… and I’m sure things will only continue to grow worse in China…

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