Jump to content

Steven Levitt

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
(Redirected from Steven D. Levitt)
Steven Levitt
Levitt in 2012
Born (1967-05-29) May 29, 1967 (age 57)
EducationHarvard University (BA)
Massachusetts Institute of Technology (PhD)
Academic career
InstitutionUniversity of Chicago
FieldSocial economics
Applied Microeconomics
School or
Chicago School of Economics
James M. Poterba[1]
Brian Jacob
InfluencesGary Becker
Kevin Murphy
Josh Angrist
ContributionsFreakonomics, SuperFreakonomics
AwardsJohn Bates Clark Medal (2003)
Information at IDEAS / RePEc

Steven David Levitt (born May 29, 1967) is an American economist and co-author of the best-selling book Freakonomics and its sequels (along with Stephen J. Dubner). Levitt was the winner of the 2003 John Bates Clark Medal for his work in the field of crime, and is currently the William B. Ogden Distinguished Service Professor of Economics at the University of Chicago as well as the Faculty Director and Co-Founder of the Center for Radical Innovation for Social Change at the University of Chicago[2] which incubates the Data Science for Everyone coalition.[3] He was co-editor of the Journal of Political Economy published by the University of Chicago Press until December 2007. In 2009, Levitt co-founded TGG Group, a business and philanthropy consulting company.[4] He was chosen as one of Time magazine's "100 People Who Shape Our World" in 2006.[5] A 2011 survey of economics professors named Levitt their fourth favorite living economist under the age of 60, after Paul Krugman, Greg Mankiw and Daron Acemoglu.[6]


Levitt attended St. Paul Academy and Summit School in St. Paul, Minnesota. He graduated from Harvard University in 1989 with his BA in economics summa cum laude, writing his senior thesis on rational bubbles in horse breeding, and then worked as a consultant at Corporate Decisions, Inc. (CDI) in Boston advising Fortune 500 companies. He received his PhD in economics from MIT in 1994.[7] He is currently the William B. Ogden Distinguished Service Professor and the director of Gary Becker Milton Friedman Institute for Research in Economics[8] at the University of Chicago. In 2003 he won the John Bates Clark Medal, awarded every two years by the American Economic Association to the most promising U.S. economist under the age of 40. In April 2005 Levitt published his first book, Freakonomics (coauthored with Stephen J. Dubner), which became a New York Times bestseller. Levitt and Dubner also started a blog devoted to Freakonomics.[9]


Levitt has published over 60 academic publications, studying topics including crime, politics and sports, through the framework of economics. For example, his An Economic Analysis of a Drug-Selling Gang's Finances (2000) analyzes a hand-written "accounting" of a criminal gang, and draws conclusions about the income distribution among gang members. His most well-known and controversial paper (The Impact of Legalized Abortion on Crime (2001), co-authored with John Donohue) posits that the legalization of abortion in the US in 1973 was a major causal factor in the considerable reduction in crime that followed approximately eighteen years later.

The impact of legalized abortion on crime[edit]

Revisiting a question first studied empirically in the 1960s, Donohue and Levitt argued that the legalization of abortion could account for almost half of the reduction in crime witnessed in the 1990s.[10] Their 2001 paper sparked much controversy, to which Levitt has said

". . . John Donohue and I estimate maybe that there are 5,000 or 10,000 fewer homicides because of it. But if you think that a fetus is like a person, then that's a horrible tradeoff. So ultimately I think our study is interesting because it helps us understand why crime has gone down. But in terms of policy towards abortion, you're really misguided if you use our study to base your opinion about what the right policy is towards abortion"[11]

In 2003, Theodore Joyce argued that legalized abortion had little impact on crime, contradicting Donohue and Levitt's results.[12] In 2004, the authors published a response,[13] in which they claimed Joyce's argument was flawed due to omitted-variable bias.

In November 2005, Federal Reserve Bank of Boston economist Christopher Foote[14] and his research assistant Christopher Goetz, published a paper,[15] in which they argued that the results in Donohue and Levitt's paper were due to statistical errors made by the authors. When the corrections were made, Foote and Goetz argued that abortion actually increased violent crime instead of decreasing it.

In January 2006, Donohue and Levitt published a response,[16] in which they admitted the errors in their original paper, but also pointed out that Foote and Goetz's correction was flawed due to heavy attenuation bias. The authors argued that, after making necessary changes to fix the original errors, the corrected link between abortion and crime was now weaker but still statistically significant.

In 2019, Levitt and Donohue published a new paper to review the predictions of the original 2001 paper.[17] The authors concluded that the original predictions held up with strong effects.[18] "We estimate that crime fell roughly 20% between 1997 and 2014 due to legalized abortion. The cumulative impact of legalized abortion on crime is roughly 45%, accounting for a very substantial portion of the roughly 50-55% overall decline from the peak of crime in the early 1990s."

Selected bibliography[edit]

Academic publications (in chronological order)[edit]

Other publications (in chronological order)[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Four essays in positive political economy
  2. ^ "Bringing math class into the data age". 28 February 2020.
  3. ^ "Data Science for Everyone". Data Science for Everyone. Retrieved 2021-09-28.
  4. ^ TGG Group profile[permanent dead link]
  5. ^ Pollack, Kenneth M. (8 May 2006). "The 2006 Time 100". Time. Retrieved 5 December 2016.[permanent dead link]
  6. ^ https://econjwatch.org/file_download/487/DavisMay2011.pdf [bare URL PDF]
  7. ^ Poterba, James M. (2005). "Steven D. Levitt: 2003 John Bates Clark Medalist". The Journal of Economic Perspectives. 19 (3): 181–198. doi:10.1257/089533005774357798. ISSN 0895-3309. JSTOR 4134979.
  8. ^ "Untitled Document". Archived from the original on 12 August 2005. Retrieved 5 December 2016.
  9. ^ "Freakonomics – The hidden side of everything". Archived from the original on 4 December 2016. Retrieved 5 December 2016.
  10. ^ Donahue and Levitt (May 2001). "The Impact of Legalized Abortion on Crime" (PDF). The Quarterly Journal of Economics. CXVI, Issue 2 (2): 379–420. doi:10.1162/00335530151144050.
  11. ^ Lapinski, Zack. "Abortion and Crime, Revisited (Ep. 384)". Freakonomics. Retrieved 2021-04-10.
  12. ^ Joyce, Ted (2004-01-01). "Did Legalized Abortion Lower Crime?". Journal of Human Resources. XXXIX (1): 1–28. doi:10.3368/jhr.XXXIX.1.1. ISSN 0022-166X. S2CID 12900426.
  13. ^ John J. Donohue III & Stephen D. Levitt (2004). "Further Evidence that Legalized Abortion Lowered Crime: A Reply to Joyce" (PDF). The Journal of Human Resources. Retrieved 2008-12-03.
  14. ^ Boston, Federal Reserve Bank of. "Christopher Foote – Federal Reserve Bank of Boston". Retrieved 5 December 2016.
  15. ^ Christopher L. Foote & Christopher F. Goetz (2008-01-31). "The Impact of Legalized Abortion on Crime: Comment" (PDF). Federal Reserve Bank of Boston. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2009-09-30. Retrieved 2008-05-12.
  16. ^ John J. Donohue III & Stephen D. Levitt (January 2006). "Measurement Error, Legalized Abortion, the Decline in Crime: A Response to Foote and Goetz" (PDF). Retrieved 2008-12-03.
  17. ^ Donohue, John J.; Levitt, Steven D. (2019-05-20). "The Impact of Legalized Abortion on Crime over the Last Two Decades". Working Paper Series. doi:10.3386/w25863. {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  18. ^ Law (2019-05-20). "New paper by Donohue and Levitt on abortion and crime". Marginal REVOLUTION. Retrieved 2021-04-10.

External links[edit]