Book Trailer for Pilikia

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Messing around with Wolfram Alpha

I suppose it's no secret that I'm a numbers guy. When I bought my iPad, one of the first apps I downloaded was the Wolfram-Alpha app. Wolfram-Alpha is a computational database. If you can pose a quantitative question, W-A can probably answer it. If you don't have an iPad, you can use the database online at

According to the book, Freakonomics, we have experienced a precipitous decline in crime since 1990. I was skeptical, so I looked up crime rates in W-A. Sure enough, the Freakonomics guys were right. It appears from this, that we are about as safe as we were in 1970.

So what caused the decrease? Levitt and Dubner attribute it to the effects of Roe v. Wade. Suddenly, a lot of people who would have grown up in poverty and single-parent homes did not exist and, thus, did not commit crimes.

Could that be true? I went to the CDC's Abortion Surveillance website where I found this chart of abortion rates from 1974 to 2004. The upturn in abortions, which peaked about 1990, does seem to mirror the decrease in crime beginning about 1990. Note that the rate of abortions drops off after 1990, which suggests, if the abortion/crime hypothesis is correct, that the crime rate will begin to increase this year, if it hasn't begun already. By 1995, we were back to the 1974 level of abortion, which means we should soon be returning to the 1990 crime rate.

However, I think there might be another cause for the falling crime rates--immigration. I'll explore that in another post.


  1. Kevin R. Tipple said...

    Maybe the fact that DPD and other departments are deliberately under counting crimes has something to do with it?

  2. Helen Ginger said...

    That's interesting. I would never have put the two together. Looking forward to your next post.

  3. Helen Ginger said...

    You left us with a cliff hanger! You are indeed a mystery writer.

  4. Helen Ginger said...

    You post the most amazing things. I wonder if it feels like we have more crime now because we have access to more news now - on the Internet, the TV, our phones...places we didn't used to have.