Roe v. Wade and American Fertility
We consider the effect of abortion legalization on births in the United States. A simple theoretical model demonstrates that the impact of abortion legalization on the birth rate is ambiguous, because both pregnancy and abortion decisions could be affected. We use variation in the timing of legalization across states in the early 1970's to estimate the effect of abortion on birth rates. Our findings indicate that states legalizing abortion experienced a 5% decline in births relative to other states. The decline among teens, women over 35, and nonwhite women was even greater: 13%, 8%, and 12% respectively. Out-of-wedlock births declined by twice as much as births in wedlock. If legalization in some states affected birth rates in neighboring states (through travel to obtain an abortion), comparing births between states will underestimate the actual reduction. Using more distant comparison states increases the estimated impact of abortion legalization on birth rates to about 8%. Applying this estimate to the current level of births, a complete recriminalization of abortion would result in 320,000 additional births per year.
|Date of creation:||Jun 1996|
|Date of revision:|
|Publication status:||published as American Journal of Public Health, Vol. 89, no. 2 (1999): 199-203.|
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- 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.
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NBER Working Papers
4853, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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- 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.
- Lundberg, S. & Plotnick, R.D., 1994. "Adolescent Premarital Childbearing: Do Economic Incentives Matters?," Working Papers 94-4, University of Washington, Department of Economics.
- Lundberg, S. & Plotnick, R.D., 1994. "Adolescent Premarital Childbearing: Do Economic Incentives Matters?," Discussion Papers in Economics at the University of Washington 94-4, Department of Economics at the University of Washington.
- Matthews, S. & Ribar, D. & Wilhelm, M., 1995.
"The Effects of Economic Conditions and Access to Reproductive Health Services on State Abortion and Birth Rates,"
7-95-4, Pennsylvania State - Department of Economics.
- Matthews, S. & Ribar, D. & Wilhelm, M., 1995. "The Effects of Economic Conditions and Access to Reproductive Health Services on State Abortion and Birth Rates," Papers 4-95-15, Pennsylvania State - Department of Economics.
- 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.
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