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Abortion Legalization and Lifecycle Fertility

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  • Elizabeth Oltmans Ananat
  • Jonathan Gruber
  • Phillip B. Levine

Abstract

Previous research has convincingly shown that abortion legalization in the early 1970s led to a significant drop in fertility at that time. But this decline may have either represented a delay in births from a point where they were have represented a permanent reduction in fertility. We combine data from the 1970 U.S. Census and microdata from 1968 to 1999 Vital Statistics records to calculate lifetime fertility of women in the 1930s through 1960s birth cohorts. We examine whether those women who were born in early legalizing states and who passed through the early 1970s in their peak childbearing years had differential lifetime fertility patterns compared to women born in other states and in different birth cohorts. We consider the impact of abortion legalization on both the number of children ever born as well as the distribution of number of children ever born. Our results indicate that much of the reduction in fertility at the time abortion was legalized was permanent in that women did not have more subsequent births as a result. We also find that this result is largely attributable to an increase in the number of women who remained childless throughout their fertile years.

Suggested Citation

  • Elizabeth Oltmans Ananat & Jonathan Gruber & Phillip B. Levine, 2004. "Abortion Legalization and Lifecycle Fertility," NBER Working Papers 10705, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:10705
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Ted Joyce, 2004. "Did Legalized Abortion Lower Crime?," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 39(1).
    2. Hotz, V Joseph & Miller, Robert A, 1988. "An Empirical Analysis of Life Cycle Fertility and Female Labor Supply," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 56(1), pages 91-118, January.
    3. Charles, Kerwin Kofi & Stephens, Melvin, Jr, 2006. "Abortion Legalization and Adolescent Substance Use," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 49(2), pages 481-505, October.
    4. John J. Donohue III & Steven D. Levitt, 2001. "The Impact of Legalized Abortion on Crime," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 116(2), pages 379-420.
    5. Heckman, James J & Walker, James R, 1990. "The Relationship between Wages and Income and the Timing and Spacing of Births: Evidence from Swedish Longitudinal Data," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 58(6), pages 1411-1441, November.
    6. Jonathan Gruber & Phillip Levine & Douglas Staiger, 1999. "Abortion Legalization and Child Living Circumstances: Who is the "Marginal Child"?," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 114(1), pages 263-291.
    7. Joseph Hotz, V. & Klerman, Jacob Alex & Willis, Robert J., 1993. "The economics of fertility in developed countries," Handbook of Population and Family Economics,in: M. R. Rosenzweig & Stark, O. (ed.), Handbook of Population and Family Economics, edition 1, volume 1, chapter 7, pages 275-347 Elsevier.
    8. George A. Akerlof & Janet L. Yellen & Michael L. Katz, 1996. "An Analysis of Out-of-Wedlock Childbearing in the United States," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 111(2), pages 277-317.
    9. Renbao Chen & S. Morgan, 1991. "Recent Trends in the Timing of First Births in the United States," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 28(4), pages 513-533, November.
    10. Martha J. Bailey, 2006. "More Power to the Pill: The Impact of Contraceptive Freedom on Women's Life Cycle Labor Supply," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 121(1), pages 289-320.
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    JEL classification:

    • I1 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health

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