Hey – who are you callin’ “marginal”?

What’s a marginal child?  Don’t worry if you can’t quite pin it down. There are scholars on the job. Jonathan Gruber, for example.

Jonathan Gruber (photo: economics.mit.edu)

Mr. Gruber, of stupid-Americans-made-Obamacare-possible fame, is getting his just desserts before a Congressional committee this week. His 15 minutes of fame have prompted some reporters to unearth Gruber’s earlier work. With a hat tip to Breeanne Howe of Red State for bringing this to my attention, I’m looking at a 1997 paper co-authored by Gruber: “Abortion Legalization and Child Living Circumstances: Who Is the ‘Marginal Child?'”, a working paper for the National Bureau of Economic Research located in Cambridge, Massachusetts. (Full text is here.)

“The most important change in government fertility policy over the past 30 years was the legalization of abortion under the Roe v. Wade decision.” Thus spake Gruber et al. in 1997. Of course, since then, Obamacare’s HHS contraceptive mandate has expanded “government fertility policy” (the very phrase makes my skin crawl, but I digress …) by holding that women’s fertility is a disease to be prevented. But back to 1997. Gruber and his co-authors asked if the “marginal child who is not born when abortion access increases more or less disadvantaged than the average child?” “We address the selection inherent in the abortion decision,” they add helpfully.

Here’s my humble attempt to translate their academic query: Is the hypothetical child of an abortion-minded woman better off for having not been born? Are we as a society better off for that non-birth?

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Yes, according to the paper’s authors, writing seventeen years ago. “Our estimates imply that the marginal child who was not born due to legalization would have been 70% more likely to live in a single-parent family, 40% more likely to live in poverty, 50% more likely to receive welfare, and 35% more likely to die as an infant. These selection effects imply that the legalization of abortion saved the government over $14 billion in welfare expenditures through 1994.”

Only a policy wonk – or a trio of them – could miss the irony of saying that an aborted child would have been 35% more likely to die as an infant had she been allowed to be born.

Please, read the whole thing. It’s instructive to know what kind of resumé helped Gruber land an Obamacare consulting gig. I am not a statistician and am not in a position to evaluate the data set he used in the 1997 paper. I don’t need to be a statistician, however, to be sickened by the paper’s conclusion.

If abortion saved the government $14 billion between the early 1970s and 1994, just think how much the government has “saved” since then. Simply by marginalizing children, we’re “saving” a fortune.

Want to “save” more money? Marginalize more people. Jonathan Swift is turning in his grave.


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