Excerpt Of The Day: The Roe Effect

“Compounding the GOP advantage is what I call the Roe effect. It is a statement of fact, not a moral judgment, to observe that every pregnancy aborted today results in one fewer eligible voter 18 years from now. More than 40 million legal abortions have occurred in the United States since 1973, and these are not randomly distributed across the population. Black women, for example, have a higher abortion ratio (percentage of pregnancies aborted) than Hispanic women, whose abortion ratio in turn is higher than that of non-Hispanic whites. Since blacks vote Democratic in far greater proportions than Hispanics, and whites are more Republican than Hispanics or blacks, ethnic disparities in abortion ratios would be sufficient to give the GOP a significant boost–surely enough to account for George W. Bush’s razor-thin Florida victory in 2000.

The Roe effect, however, refers specifically to the nexus between the practice of abortion and the politics of abortion. It seems self-evident that pro-choice women are more likely to have abortions than pro-life ones, and common sense suggests that children tend to gravitate toward their parents’ values. This would seem to ensure that Americans born after Roe v. Wade have a greater propensity to vote for the pro-life party–that is, Republican–than they otherwise would have.

The Roe effect would have made itself felt before post-Roe children even reached voting age. Children, after all, are counted in the population figures that determine states’ representation in Congress and the Electoral College. Thus, if the greater prevalence of abortion post-Roe affected statewide fertility patterns, the results would have begun showing up after the 1980 reapportionment–in the 1982 election for Congress, and the 1984 election for president.

The first post-Roe babies reached voting age in 1991, in time for the 1992 election. In 1992 the Roe effect would have been minimal, since it was limited to a small segment of the electorate (18- and 19-year-olds), who tend not to vote. The affected segment of the population grows with each election, ranging up to 23-year-olds in 1996, 27-year-olds in 2000, and 31-year-olds in 2004. The Roe effect is compounded over generations. Children who are never born do not have children or grandchildren.

…Has the Roe effect borne itself out in practice? The results are mixed. In terms of reapportionment, the trend is decidedly in favor of Republican states. The 30 states George W. Bush carried in 2000 had 271 electoral votes, a bare majority. Reapportionment after the 2000 census increased that number to 278. In the 1980s, they were worth only 267 electoral votes, not enough for a majority; in the 1970s, 260. The trend continues: Of the 10 fastest-growing states in 2003-04, Bush carried nine in 2004. (One of them, New Mexico, went for Al Gore four years earlier.” — James Taranto

That’s an intriguing analysis. Could the Dems be slowly aborting themselves into political oblivion? It certainly seems to be a possibility…

*** Update #1: *** Steven Levitt & Stephen Dubner wrote a book called “Freakonomics” & in one of the chapters of the book, the argument was made that the number of abortions has a lot to do with the lower crime rate we’ve seen over the last few years. Here’s a summary of that theory from The Economist:

One of his best-known, and in some quarters notorious, findings concerns America’s falling crime-rate during the 1990s. Towards the end of that decade, confounding the expectations of most analysts, the teenage murder rate fell by more than 50% in the space of five years; by 2000, the book notes, the overall murder rate was at its lowest for 35 years. Other kinds of crime fell too. Why? Some gave the credit to economic growth; others to gun control; still others to new methods of policing, or to greater reliance on imprisonment, or to increasing use of the death penalty, or to the ageing of the population.

Mr Levitt goes carefully through these various explanations, checking them against the evidence. He finds that some of them do offer a partial explanation (more jail time, for instance), whereas others do not (greater use of the death penalty, new policing methods). But the most intriguing finding was that one of the most powerful explanations had not even been broached. That explanation was abortion.

The reasoning is simple enough. In January 1973, the Supreme Court made abortion legal throughout the United States, where previously it had been available in only five states. In 1974, roughly 750,000 women had abortions in America; by 1980, the number was 1.6m (one abortion for every 2.3 live births). “What sort of woman was most likely to take advantage of Roe v Wade?” the book asks. “Very often she was unmarried or in her teens or poor, and sometimes all three…In other words, the very factors that drove millions of American women to have an abortion also seemed to predict that their children, had they been born, would have led unhappy and possibly criminal lives…In the early 1990s, just as the first cohort of children born after Roe v Wade was hitting its late teen years—the years during which young men enter their criminal prime—the rate of crime began to fall.”

The theory is the easy part, once you dare to articulate it. Testing it is quite another matter. But the book moves methodically and persuasively through the statistical evidence. It turns out, for instance, that crime started falling earlier in the states that legalised abortion before Roe v Wade; that the states with the highest abortion rates saw the biggest drops in crime (even controlling for other factors); that there was no link between abortion rates and crime before the late 1980s (when unborn criminals, as it were, first began to affect the figures); and that a similar association of crime and abortion has been found in other countries.”

Personally, I don’t believe abortion alone has caused a reduction in the crime & the decline in the Democratic Party’s political fortunes. However, I do think you can probably make a compelling statistical argument that abortion has had a significant impact in both of those areas.

…..Which leads us to a question posed by President_Friedman in the comments section:

Interesting. So what happens after the conservatives overturn Roe V Wade and most states make abortions illegal? Does that mean we are approximately 20 years from living in a socialist state?

By the way, President_Friedman is exactly right: if Roe v. Wade were overturned, it’s likely that most (but certainly not all) states would make abortion illegal except perhaps under certain rare circumstances (rape, incest, threat to the life of the mother).

Would that mean there would be some sort of huge political fall-out for Republicans? I doubt it.

Although most of the abortion brawling would move to the states, there would still be abortion related issues on the national level and Christian conservatives who were inspired to get involved in politics because of Roe v. Wade would have reason to stay involved.

Demographically, the left might start to recover their losses in some states but, of course, losing the lion’s share of 30 years’ worth of potential voters is tough to recover from and blue states would be the ones most likely to leave abortion untouched.

So at this point, the damage is probably already done and if and when Roe v. Wade is reversed, it’ll be tough for the Dems to recover at this point…

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