«Research Article Analysis: Crime Rates in the United States» - Free Essay Paper

Research Article Analysis: Crime Rates in the United States

The article under analysis is the 2001 research by Steven Levitt from the University of Chicago and John Donohue from Yale University. The research led to the controversial Donohue-Levitt hypothesis. It compared the crime rates in the United States in the period between 1973 and 1991 and tried to explain the sharp drop in the rates of crime in the period after 1991. The research was groundbreaking in that it was among the first in academia to link the legalization of abortion with falling crime rates in the United States. 

Purpose, Problem, and the Research Questions of the Study

The two researchers undertook the research to discover the connection between the legalization of abortion in the 1970s and the falling crime rates at both federal and state levels. Their study was primarily focused on the analysis of homicide, violence, and property crime rates. The problem the research sought to address was the existence of numerous explanations regarding the fall of the crime rates in the United States in 1991 and the subsequent years. However, none of those explanations addressed the success of the policy of legalization of the U.S. Supreme Court decision in the case of Roe v Wade. The study was based on several research questions. On a general level, the research sought to answer the question, "What led to the fall in crime rates in the 1990s in comparison with the 1980s and the 1970s?" The study then aimed at answering the question concerning the relationship between the falling crime rates in the 1990s and the policy decision to allow abortion in the United States. Particularly, it addressed the decision of the U.S. Supreme Court in the case of Roe v Wade in 1973. Thirdly, the study also explored reasons some states in the country had a decrease in crime rates earlier than the other states.

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Research Design

Regarding the design of the research, Donohue and Levitt chose to structure their work as a descriptive study. The authors of the research collected the data they utilized in the research without controlling or manipulating subjects used in the study. The research described the relationship between the two independent variables. The first variable was a significant increase in the abortion rates in the 1970s after the Supreme Court decision in the Roe v Wade case. The second one was the dramatic drop in crime rates after 1991, especially in violent crimes like a homicide. Consequently, this research can also be considered a correlational study. The researchers used a descriptive and correlational study, as data on the two phenomena under study were already available in state institutions and other relevant bodies.

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Operational Definition

The research tried to describe the correlation between the legalization of abortion and the fall in crime rates. To show this correlation, the operational definition of the research used data from other sources. The authors stated that in the 1990s, the United States saw a sharp drop in crime rates, which had been previously experienced during the prohibition in 1933. Homicide rates dropped by 40% while violent and property crime rates declined by 30% in comparison with the rates for the preceding decades. 

Research Type

The research type is both qualitative and quantitative, as it is a mixed research. This study is qualitative because it is mainly exploratory. It sought to provide a complete and detailed description of the object of the study, namely the relationship between the legalization of abortion and the drop in the rates of crime in the United States. One can also see that it is qualitative in the way the research is structured. First, the researchers explored the Roe v Wade case and its impact. At the same time, they were also looking at the states that had legalized abortion in 1970 before it became federally legal in 1973 due to the decision in the case of Roe v Wade. Furthermore, the research delved on the fact that murder rates fell approximately 20 percent in each respective state after the legalization of abortion.

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One can also say that this research is quantitative, as there is an extensive use of empirical data measured and analyzed in the research. For instance, the authors sought to present data in a chart from Allan Guttmacher Institute, which showed the gradual increase in the number of abortions in the United States from the year 1972 to 1990 (Donohue & Levitt, 2001, p. 384). They also explained that they presented these data to show that legalization of abortion led to the rise in abortions at the federal and state levels (Donohue & Levitt, 2001, p. 385). Moreover, Donohue and Levitt (2001) presented other data from the U.S. Uniform Crime Reports in the form of a graph that showed that the rates of crime had consistently decreased from 1973 to 1999 (p. 392). Finally, they presented another graph from the National Crime Victimization Survey to support their findings (p. 393). The researchers further analyzed the data from different states by comparing the rates of states that legalized abortion against the ones that did it after the Roe v Wade case (Donohue & Levitt, 2001, p. 397).

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Methodology, Population, Sampling Methods, and Return Rate

The researchers reviewed and analyzed data collected from other preceding research studies in this area, including information from state institutions such National Crime Victimization Survey and Uniform Crime Reports. They also used research findings of other scholars who had published their work in this field of knowledge. The research had a focus on the entire population and, therefore, no sampling method was required. Moreover, the fact that the research mostly had a focus on secondary data made sampling unnecessary. Regarding a return rate, the researchers mostly used secondary data and not direct surveys in the research. Consequently, the study does not have a return rate since the latter refers to the number of people who answer survey questions as compared to the whole sample.

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Findings of the Study

The research led to the new controversial Donohue-Levitt hypothesis. The study and the related hypothesis elucidated that there was a direct relationship between the legalization of abortion and the drop in crime in the United States. There were several reasons Donohue and Levitt arrived at such a conclusion. In the first place, according to the researchers, a comparative study showed that there was the decrease in crime rates in states that had legalized abortion in 1970 before there was the decline at the federal level. However, Donohue and Levitt also presented data that showed that there was a sharp drop in the crime rate after 1991, especially considering the population born in the period after Roe v Wade case, which was most likely to engage in crime.

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Researchers’ Conclusion and Recommendations

Donohue and Levitt (2001) concluded that children born because their mothers could not resort to abortion had a higher propensity to commit crime than those who were genuinely wanted by their mothers (p. 414). Consequently, the legalization of abortion and the subsequent increase in abortion rates among women who had unwanted pregnancies had the effect of reducing the crime rate in the United States. Accordingly, Donohue and Levitt (2001) postulated that this led to the American economy saving as much as $30 billion dollars annually (p. 415). Thus, they recommended that abortion should be readily available as a policy because it has both social and economic benefits.

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Conclusion and Recommendations

The research by Donohue and Levitt was groundbreaking in that it led to the scholarly discussion of what may have been a taboo subject. However, the research has several major weaknesses. In the first place, while Donohue and Levitt sought a novel way of explaining the sharp drop in crime rates after 1991 in the United States, they failed to note that several other factors could have caused the drop in crime rate. For instance, incarceration could have led to fewer crimes committed. The fact that the use of crack cocaine had reduced progressively from its high in the 1970s throughout the 1980s could also explain the decline in the rates of crime. Furthermore, their research had a focus on the population that could have been in their late teens and early twenties in 1991. Therefore, it actually did not take into consideration the rest of the population. Consequently, the research would have been better if it had noted the effect of other variables like incarceration and the reduction in the use of crack-cocaine in the United States. Moreover, while the research pointed to the reduction in the crime rate in the country, it conclusively isolated the people who committed the crime in a way that it was possible to know that the reduced crime was the one that could have occurred had the unwanted pregnancies that resulted in abortions ended up in births. Thus, an isolation of the age of the people engaged in crime in the 1990s, as compared to the 1970s and 1980s, could have improved the research.

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