Freakonomics is Right Again

May 15, 2007

One of the books I loved last year was Freakonomics. The authors attempted to explain societal phenomena by looking at pieces of data that no one else was examining. For instance, they sought to see a connection between falling violent crime rates and abortion rates. The authors, for instance, had predicted that violent crime would begin to fall in the mid-90s and level off around 2003/2004. That is exactly what happened. Government would love to tell you it was because of their programs and ground-breaking initiatives. Instead, because of abortion rates, less babies were born to single-parent and poverty-stricken homes, thereby causing the population to fall below the critical mass needed to raise crime rates among the groups most likely to commit crimes.

They also predicted that in 2006, the violent crime rate would rise. Unfortunately, they were right again. Go to this article to see the results. One paragraph is very telling:

Many youths have little parental oversight and are too easily influenced by gang membership and glamorized violence in popular culture.

As you read that, know what you’re seeing: “little parental oversight” means a working mom and no dad. “Influenced by gang membership” equals poverty and minorities and father figures among gang membership.

How did Freakonomics predict this? They looked at when the abortion rate started to fall. And then they just added 16 years to that number and here is where we are at.

How can we interpret this? As one who does not think abortion is a viable option for society’s ills, it is a disturbing trend to say the least. There is no doubt at all that violent crime is heavily tied to increase in gang membership. And the link between poor, single-parent families and gang involvement is also well established. As with many things in life, the real answer is more complicated than a few numbers can answer for us. It is a spiritual condition that has deteriorated since the late 1950s. I see four contributing factors:

1. A church in the 1950s that was more concerned with educating children in Bible stories than in teaching parents how to raise their kids.

2. A society that wanted to marginalize God so that the “free love” and drug cultures could be dominant. Well, the consequence of those moves is unwanted pregnancy, drug addiction and single-parent households.

3. The abortion debate that has lost its moral center for both sides at times.

4. The loss of a prayer focus in churches for the culture. Instead, prayer is now focused upon the needs of people instead of society as a whole. We are more concerned with being prosperous and praying the “Prayer of Jabez” instead of praying for the school down the block. Our prayer warriors used to be lead by our retirees in churches. Now those same people are watching Jeopardy and Wheel of Fortune every night.

I just hope that Freakonomics is wrong in its next few predictions.


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