University of Chicago economist, Steven Levitt (also a contributor to Freakonomics) once wrote an intriguing (but controversial) paper arguing that the legalization of abortion in the 1970's was a major cause of the reduction in crime in the United States in the 1990s. Freakonomics now has a post that suggests that China's "One Child" policy, and the resulting sex selected abortions, is having the opposite effect in China:
If Roe v. Wade contributed to the U.S. crime drop of the 1990’s, could China’s one-child policy be having the opposite effect today?
When the Chinese government instituted the policy in 1979, it touched off a wave of sex-selective abortions as pregnant couples decided that if they could have only one child they would benefit most from having a boy. That helped leave modern China with the largest gender imbalance in the world. Today, there are 37 million more men than women in China, and many of the boys are growing up unable to find a job or start a family.
So what are these “surplus” boys doing to fill their time?
In The New Republic, Mara Hvistendahl reports that as the first generation of one-child boys have reached adolescence, the youth crime rate in China has more than doubled, as idle and frustrated boys turn to crime “without specific motives, often without forethought.”
Read it all here.