An Interesting Paper on Unwanted Fertility and Crime

Josh Wright —  22 April 2007

Juan Pantano, a Ph.D. Candidate in the excellent UCLA Economics Department, has a paper that some of our readers might be interested in entitled: Unwanted Fertility, Contraceptive Technology and Crime: Exploiting a Natural Experiment in Access to the Pill.  Here’s the abstract:

A blossoming literature in the U.S. examines the role of abortion legalization on the criminality of the cohorts born before and after this controversial law change. Seminal work by Donohue & Levitt (2001) claims to explain over 50% of the recent decline in U.S. crime rates with the legalization of abortion undertaken in the early 70s. In the same spirit, I exploit another natural experiment induced by policy changes associated with the contraceptive revolution of the 60s. In particular, after the introduction of the contraceptive pill in 1960, different states maintained some form of required parental consent to obtain a doctor’s prescription for women below the age of majority. These restrictions were lifted differentially across states during the 60s and 70s. This differential timing of contraceptive liberalization induces exogenous variation that can be used to identify the causal effect of unwanted fertility on crime. Preliminary results, consistent with the hypothesis raised by the work of Donohue and Levitt, show that greater flexibility to avoid unwanted pregnancies reduces crime two decades later, when undesired children would had reached their maximum criminal activity.