September 30, 2005

MORE MURDER = LESS CRIME? (via Governor Breck):

Bennett Under Fire for Remark on Crime and Black Abortions (Brian Faler, September 30, 2005, The Washington Post)

Democratic lawmakers and civil rights leaders denounced conservative commentator William J. Bennett yesterday for suggesting on his syndicated radio show that aborting black children would reduce the U.S. crime rate.

The former U.S. education secretary-turned-talk show host said Wednesday that "if you wanted to reduce crime, you could -- if that were your sole purpose -- you could abort every black baby in this country, and your crime rate would go down." Bennett quickly added that such an idea would be "an impossible, ridiculous and morally reprehensible thing to do." But, he said, "your crime rate would go down."

Steve Levitt, in Freakonomics, makes the point that abortion generally will reduce crime and most of the early support for abortion was based on the quite openly discussed idea that it would help control "undesirable" ethnic populations. But one is reminded of the opposite ends of the Laffer Curve: if you took every cent that folks made in taxes you'd get no taxes because no one would bother earning any money; but, if you took no money in taxes you'd up with no money too. Similarly, if you aborted every child you'd reduce crime to near zero because crime is a phenomena closely associated with young people, for obvious reasons. Of course, you'd also do so much damage to your own society that the drop in crime would hardly be worth it. There was a much reported study this week about how societies that don't believe in God are safer than those that do--all it left out is that the former are dying because they've made themselves safer by getting older and not replenishing their societies with young people. Some may consider suicide a "victimless" crime, but it does end with a senseless death. Crime seems a rather small price to pay for not sanctioning abortion and keeping our society vibrant and growing.

MORE (via Michael Herdegen):
All in the family (John Leo, 10.03/05, US News)

In a policy brief released last week, the Washington-based Institute for Marriage and Public Policy, looked at 23 recent studies dealing with family structure and youth crime. In 19 of the 20 studies that found family structure to have an effect, children from nonintact or single-parent families had a higher rate of crime or delinquency. Neighborhoods with lots of out-of-wedlock births have lots of crime. Ominously, one study said that the more single-parent families there were in a neighborhood, the more crime there was among two-parent kids living around them. Again, these studies are controlled for race.

Among the other findings:

- Adolescents in single-parent families were almost twice as likely to have pulled a knife or a gun on someone in the past year. This was after controlling for many demographic variables, including race, gender, age, household income, and educational level of parents.

- In a large sample of students in 315 classrooms in 11 cities, the "single most important variable" in gang involvement was found to be family structure. In other words, the greater the number of parents at home, the lower the level of gang involvement. A study of American Indian families found that living in a two-parent family reduced gang involvement by more than 50 percent.

- Another study concluded that out-of-wedlock childbearing had a large effect on the rate of arrests for murder, an effect that "seems to have gotten stronger over time."

- "Adolescents in married, two-biological-parent families generally fare better than children in any of the family types examined here," one study reported. The other family types studied were single mother, cohabiting stepfather, and married stepfather families.

- One study, judged most important by the institute, found that divorce rates had no relationship to violent crime rates but that out-of-wedlock births had a strong relationship to youth crime--nearly 90 percent of the increase in violent crime between 1973 and 1995 was accounted for by the rise in out-of-wedlock births.

Browse through an archive of columns by John Leo.

The upshot of these studies is that America is confronted by a form of poverty that money alone can't cure. Many of us think social breakdown is a result of racism and poverty. Yes, they are factors, but study after study shows that alterations in norms and values are at the heart of economic and behavioral troubles. That's why so much research boils down to the old rule: If you want to avoid poverty, finish high school, don't have kids in your teens, and get married.

Posted by Orrin Judd at September 30, 2005 1:49 PM

You're on a tear today.

Posted by: David Cohen at September 30, 2005 2:09 PM

Bennett's hypothetical is rationally unassailable: if you kill them before they can commit crime and you will get less crime. But Bennett is not a rationalist and therefore went on to argue that the good of lower crime can't justify the evil action of abortion. Ironic that he is castigated by rationalists who justify abortion. Still more amazing is that there are black voices among the chorus.

Posted by: Luciferous at September 30, 2005 2:14 PM

I don't know why, but I had never made the connection between Europe's lower crime rate and lack of young people until now. Now that you've pointed it out, it's embarassingly obvious. Thanks.

Posted by: Timothy at September 30, 2005 2:16 PM

Is that why Utah is the crime capital of the US and Florida has such a low crime rate?

Posted by: h-man at September 30, 2005 2:40 PM


Ethnic homogeneity works too--if you murdered all the non-white non-Lutherans in America we'd have crime rates as low as Scandanavia--well, other than the couple hundred million murders--and just as dismal a future.

Posted by: oj at September 30, 2005 2:46 PM

what is wrong with having kids in your teens? assuming that you are married and have finished high school?

Posted by: paul at September 30, 2005 3:01 PM

assume those two things and nothing's the matter, except the assumption.

Posted by: oj at September 30, 2005 3:08 PM

I, of course, was not suggesting murder or abortion (which Bennett wasn't either, if you read his whole statement). However if African-Americans decided to reunite with their brethren in Africa, like Abraham Lincoln and Stokely Carmichael(Kwame Ture) wanted them to then America would perhaps have less crime. (as well as dismal prospects in football, basketball, baseball)

Posted by: h-man at September 30, 2005 3:13 PM

That paper is a shining example of the utter intellectual bankrupcy of the modern social sciences. Methinks the referee's response should have been quite easy to write: "Correlation is not causation. The paper is rejected."

Speaking of the wonders of Europe, I'm stunned you haven't posted about this yet, oj:

Posted by: b at September 30, 2005 3:14 PM

I think Steve Sailer and James Q. Wilson debunked the Freakonomics thing a while ago.

Posted by: Ali Choudhury at September 30, 2005 3:17 PM

I have been told by people who should know, policemen and public health workers, that often one may spot the really bad, dangerous neighborhoods by the presence of dead trees.

It sounds so strange, but here's how it works. In neighborhoods with a high degree of social pathology, children are unsupervised. Such children have nothing better to do than to scrape the bark from sidewalk trees with whatever they have in their hands, so the trees die. As the children grow, they move on to using sharp objects and other impliments on faster-moving targets.

As to what Bennett said, it one of those indisputable, indeniable, irrepressible truths. Bennnett recognized that our values make us recoil from taking life that is merely inconvenient. Destroy the values, and we are presented with an whole other set of issues.

Posted by: Lou Gots at September 30, 2005 3:18 PM


Cleansing, not extermination?

Posted by: oj at September 30, 2005 3:22 PM

"cleansing, not extermination?"

No, people walking the walk, instead of talking the talk.

Posted by: h-man at September 30, 2005 3:41 PM

Levitt responds

Posted by: Robert Schwartz at September 30, 2005 3:51 PM

Legalizing abortion increased out of wedlock births.

Posted by: carter at September 30, 2005 5:49 PM


No, it didn't. The family had already been broken by the time Roe was issued.

Posted by: oj at September 30, 2005 6:07 PM

You may be right, I don't really know, but even if an ongoing trend of family breakdown was the main cause it seems as if legalization of abortion acted to accelerate the trend. See this:

Posted by: carter at September 30, 2005 10:22 PM

Pat Moynihan's warning about the trend came some years before Roe:

Posted by: oj at September 30, 2005 10:51 PM

Monyihan's warning was issued when single-parent black families numbered about 25%. Today, the number is about 65%.

Will Harry Reid denounce me for mentioning it?

Posted by: jim hamlen at October 1, 2005 10:20 AM


Posted by: oj at October 1, 2005 10:54 AM

There was a much reported study this week about how societies that don't believe in God are safer than those that do--all it left out is that the former are dying because they've made themselves safer by getting older and not replenishing their societies with young people.

The disparity in fertility rates between England, France, and the US is not great enough to justify your claim. And it doesn't account for statistics such as std rates for teenagers or out of wedlock births, as these are dependent on the number of people eligible for that condition, and not the total population.

The glaringly obvious fact is that the US continues to suffer high rates of socially dysfunctional behavior at the same time that it's population is aging, it's fertility rate has dropped to zpg levels, and it has become more religious over the last 4 decades. What exactly have we gained for all this religiosity?

Posted by: Robert Duquette at October 3, 2005 12:04 PM

The only thriving society in the West.

Posted by: oj at October 3, 2005 1:41 PM

Define 'thriving'.

Posted by: Robert Duquette at October 3, 2005 2:23 PM

When determining the types of people committing violent crimes or any other crimes committed, why is it that the single parent families always get drug in the dirt? Children "born out of wedlock" have just as much if not more family support that those with both parents. In marriage, out of marriage, that is not the issue. The issue is the lack of dicipline, guidance and consistency, in two words "Appropriate Parenting" Next time this survey is conducted find out the parenting strategies used on the crimminals. I read that teaching and playing board games with your children can lower the chances of going to prison. The majority of prisoners asked said they had never played board games. What I am getting at is try surveying from a different point of view. I bet if you tried you could find someone else to blame for the crimes being committed.

Posted by: Leigh at October 12, 2005 12:39 AM

Kids born out of wedlock are less likely to be in board game playing families, no?

Posted by: oj at October 12, 2005 1:01 AM