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Abortion Legalization and Child Living Circumstances: Who is the "Marginal Child?"

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  • Jonathan Gruber
  • Phillip Levine
  • Douglas Staiger

Abstract

We estimate the impact of changes in abortion access in the early 1970s on the average living standards of cohorts born in those years. In particular, we address the selection inherent in the abortion decision: is the marginal child who is not born when abortion access increases more or less disadvantaged than the average child? Legalization of abortion in five states around 1970, followed by legalization nationwide due to the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, generates natural variation which can be used to estimate the effect of abortion access. We find that cohorts born after abortion was legalized experienced a significant reduction in a number of adverse outcomes. 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.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 6034.

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Date of creation: May 1997
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Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:6034

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  1. Grossman, Michael & Joyce, Theodore J, 1990. "Unobservables, Pregnancy Resolutions, and Birth Weight Production Functions in New York City," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 98(5), pages 983-1007, October.
  2. Robert Haveman & Barbara Wolfe, 1995. "The Determinants of Children's Attainments: A Review of Methods and Findings," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 33(4), pages 1829-1878, December.
  3. Michael Grossman & Steven Jacobowitz, 1982. "Variations in Infant Mortality Rates among Counties in the United States: The Roles of Social Policies and Programs," NBER Working Papers 0615, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. Lundberg, Shelly & Plotnick, Robert D, 1995. "Adolescent Premarital Childbearing: Do Economic Incentives Matter?," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 13(2), pages 177-200, April.
  5. Blank, Rebecca M. & George, Christine C. & London, Rebecca A., 1996. "State abortion rates the impact of policies, providers, politics, demographics, and economic environment," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 15(5), pages 513-553, October.
  6. Corman, Hope & Grossman, Michael, 1985. "Determinants of neonatal mortality rates in the U.S. : A reduced form model," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 4(3), pages 213-236, September.
  7. Caroline M. Hoxby, 1998. "The Effects of Class Size and Composition on Student Achievement: New Evidence from Natural Population Variation," NBER Working Papers 6869, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  8. Joshua D. Angrist & Victor Lavy, 1999. "Using Maimonides' Rule To Estimate The Effect Of Class Size On Scholastic Achievement," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 114(2), pages 533-575, May.
  9. Stephen Chaikind & Hope Corman, 1990. "The Special Education Costs of Low Birthweight," NBER Working Papers 3461, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  10. Michael Grossman & Steven Jacobowitz, 1981. "Variations in infant mortality rates among counties of the United States: The roles of public policies and programs," Demography, Springer, vol. 18(4), pages 695-713, November.
  11. Kane, Thomas J & Staiger, Douglas, 1996. "Teen Motherhood and Abortion Access," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 111(2), pages 467-506, May.
  12. Akerlof, George A & Yellen, Janet L & Katz, Michael L, 1996. "An Analysis of Out-of-Wedlock Childbearing in the United States," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 111(2), pages 277-317, May.
  13. Janet Currie & Lucia Nixon & Nancy Cole, 1993. "Restrictions on Medicaid Funding of Abortion: Effects on Pregnancy Resolutions and Birth Weight," NBER Working Papers 4432, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  14. Levine, Phillip B. & Trainor, Amy B. & Zimmerman, David J., 1996. "The effect of Medicaid abortion funding restrictions on abortions, pregnancies and births," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 15(5), pages 555-578, October.
  15. Theodore Joyce, 1987. "The impact of induced abortion on black and white birth outcomes in the United States," Demography, Springer, vol. 24(2), pages 229-244, May.
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