Over the weekend we were in East Hampton to get Lisa's stuff out of the moldy basement, so I did what I always do when visiting the States: buy all my books from Amazon. Otherwise it's a craps shoot whether you get zapped with customs duty, which is really not worth it when you're buying used books for $5 a pop. So I got the think book du moment
It's not as thought provoking as Malcolm Gladwell's stuff, and I think too much of it has appeared in The New Yorker
for such a thin book. But I did like Levitt's observation that the only major social trend that seems to correlate convincingly with the huge fall of violent crime in the US in the late '90's is the Roe v. Wade
judgment in 1973. About 16, 17 years later, crime starts to fall massively
. Levitt's idea is that the women to whom Roe v. Wade
made the most difference were poor mothers who couldn't afford an illegal abortion or a journey to get a legal one. Those are the moms who are least equipped to raise their unwanted children properly. Since Roe v. Wade
, the number of unwanted children born to poor women without resources has dropped by on the order of one million per year. (The total number of legal abortions is about 1.6 million.) Naturally those are the children who would be most likely to turn to crime.
Levitt does not address the moral calculus, he's an economist. But it certainly is interesting stuff.