IDEAS home Printed from
MyIDEAS: Log in (now much improved!) to save this article

The Impact of Legalized Abortion on Teen Childbearing

Listed author(s):
  • John J. Donohue
  • Jeffrey Grogger
  • Steven D. Levitt

After 41 consecutive years of increase, out-of-wedlock teen childbearing unexpectedly reversed course in 1991 and by 2002 was 20% below its peak. Explanations for that reversal have proven elusive. In this paper, we present evidence that exposure to legalized abortion in utero for the cohort of women that became teenagers in the 1990s is one factor contributing to this decline. We estimate that the legalization of abortion in the 1970s changed the composition of women at risk of bearing children out of wedlock some 15--24 years later. This composition effect reduced out-of-wedlock teen birth rates by 6%, which accounts for roughly 25% of the observed decline in unmarried teen birth rates over this period. It also lowered rates of unmarried births for women aged 20--24. At the same time, it increased the number of married births to women 20--24, so that there is only a small reduction in total fertility over the ages 15--24. The detailed information available on birth certificates enables a more direct identification of in utero abortion exposure than prior studies looking at other outcomes such as crime. Copyright 2009, Oxford University Press.

If you experience problems downloading a file, check if you have the proper application to view it first. In case of further problems read the IDEAS help page. Note that these files are not on the IDEAS site. Please be patient as the files may be large.

File URL:
Download Restriction: Access to full text is restricted to subscribers.

As the access to this document is restricted, you may want to look for a different version under "Related research" (further below) or search for a different version of it.

Article provided by Oxford University Press in its journal American Law and Economics Review.

Volume (Year): 11 (2009)
Issue (Month): 1 ()
Pages: 24-46

in new window

Handle: RePEc:oup:amlawe:v:11:y:2009:i:1:p:24-46
Contact details of provider: Postal:
Oxford University Press, Great Clarendon Street, Oxford OX2 6DP, UK

Fax: 01865 267 985
Web page:

Order Information: Web:

No references listed on IDEAS
You can help add them by filling out this form.

This item is not listed on Wikipedia, on a reading list or among the top items on IDEAS.

When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:oup:amlawe:v:11:y:2009:i:1:p:24-46. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Oxford University Press)

or (Christopher F. Baum)

If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.

If the full references list an item that is present in RePEc, but the system did not link to it, you can help with this form.

If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

This information is provided to you by IDEAS at the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis using RePEc data.