Steven Levitt (born May 29, 1967) is an American economist known for his work in the field of crime, in particular on the link between legalized abortion and crime rates. Winner of the 2004 John Bates Clark Medal, he is currently the William B. Ogden Distinguished Service Professor of Economics at the University of Chicago, director of the Becker Center on Chicago Price Theory at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, and co-editor of the Journal of Political Economy published by the University of Chicago Press.
He co-authored, with Stephen J. Dubner, the best-selling book Freakonomics (2005) and its sequel SuperFreakonomics (2009). Levitt was chosen as one of Time Magazine's "100 People Who Shape Our World" in 2006.
Levitt was born into a Jewish family and attended St. Paul Academy and Summit School, graduated from Harvard University in 1989 with his B.A. in economics, and received his Ph.D. from MIT in 1994. He is currently the William B. Ogden Distinguished Service Professor and the director of the Becker Center on Price Theory at the University of Chicago. In 2004 he won the John Bates Clark Medal, awarded bi-annually by the American Economic Association to the most promising U.S. economist under the age of 40. In April 2005, Levitt published his first book, Freakonomics (coauthored with Stephen J. Dubner), which became a New York Times bestseller.
His work on various economics topics, including crime, politics and sports, includes over 60 academic publications. For example, his An Economic Analysis of a Drug-Selling Gang's Finances (2000) analyzes a hand-written "accounting" of a criminal gang, and draws conclusions about the income distribution among gang members. In his most well-known and controversial paper (The Impact of Legalized Abortion on Crime (2001), co-authored with John Donohue), he shows that the legalization of abortion in the US was followed approximately eighteen years later by a reduction in crime, then argues that unwanted children commit more crime than wanted children and that the legalization of abortion resulted in fewer unwanted children, and thus a reduction in crime as these children reached the age at which many criminals begin committing crimes.