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[Movie] Freakonomics

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A bit of a strange one this. It's a documentary by an economic professor as a follow on to a book called Freakonomics. There's also segued articles by other documentary makers such as Morgan Spurlock. The film covers a number of different subjects including how your name can ruin your life, reason for the falls in US crime rates, cheating in sumo wrestling and why estate agents get more when they sell their own homes than they do when they sell yours.

 

Some of is is fascinating, some of it moderately interesting and some of it dull but the most mind-blowing bit is about the huge drop in US crime rates between the 80's and the 90's which I'll describe more in spoiler mode in case anyone wants to watch it.

 

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At the end of the 80's several cities in America were virtually un-policable. Crack driven gang violence was completely out of control and films released at the time such as New Jack City reflected this. Authority figures were predicting the 90's would be a complete bloodbath but in reality crime rates plummeted through the 90's (obviously it's all relative as this is about America and the crime rates still make some third world countries look idyllic).

 

Many theories were postulated and lots of people tried to take credit such as Bill Clinton and Rudy Giuliani. The accepted reasons were improved policing techniques, the fall in the price of crack and lower demand, incarcerating an extra one million (mostly black) Americans and improvement of economic conditions. Levitt (the economics professor) applies analytical techniques to assess the various reasons and opines that together they are only responsible for 45% of the fall in crime.

 

So what's responsible for the other 55%? In 1972 a US Supreme Court ruling was made in the case of Roe v Wade which made abortion legal across all states. So that meant 200-300,000 unwanted babies a year were terminated rather than being spewed out into the general populace with a good chance of becoming a criminal. So by the end of the 80's there was a sharp drop in the population of 15 to 18 year-old potential criminals and so the crime rate dropped. To check this Levitt looked at the three states that legalised abortion three years before Roe v Wade and saw that crime rates there started to fall three years before the other states. There was also a larger fall in crime in the states where abortion was freely available compared to those states that implemented few clinics and lots of bureaucracy.

 

Furthermore the statistics show that most American women that have abortions go on to have children later in life when they have more stable relationships and financial circumstances. These wanted children are far less likely to grow up to be criminals.

 

Fascinating stuff imo.

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Seems like it mostly rehashed the stuff from the book, but it was good nonetheless. Worth watching!

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