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Abortion as Insurance

Author

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  • Phillip B. Levine
  • Douglas Staiger

Abstract

This paper views abortion access as an insurance policy that protects women from unwanted pregnancies. Within this framework, we present a theoretical model where greater access provides value in the form of insurance against unwanted births and also reduces the incentive to avoid pregnancy. This model predicts that legalized abortion should lead to a reduction in the likelihood of giving birth. It also predicts that if abortion access becomes relatively inexpensive (including both monetary and psychic costs), then pregnancies would rise and births would remain unchanged or may even rise as well. We review the evidence on the impact of changes in abortion policy mainly from the United States and find support for both predictions. Then we test these hypotheses using recent changes in abortion policy in several Eastern European countries. We find that countries which changed from very restrictive to liberal abortion laws experienced a large reduction in births, highlighting the insurance value. Changes from modest restrictions to abortion available upon request, however, led to no such change in births despite large increases in abortions, indicating that pregnancies rose as well. These findings are consistent with the incentive effect implications of our model.

Suggested Citation

  • Phillip B. Levine & Douglas Staiger, 2002. "Abortion as Insurance," NBER Working Papers 8813, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:8813
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    File URL: http://www.nber.org/papers/w8813.pdf
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Marshall Medoff, 2008. "The Response of Abortion Demand to Changes in Abortion Costs," Social Indicators Research: An International and Interdisciplinary Journal for Quality-of-Life Measurement, Springer, vol. 87(2), pages 329-346, June.
    2. Levine, Phillip B., 2003. "Parental involvement laws and fertility behavior," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 22(5), pages 861-878, September.
    3. Girma, Sourafel & Paton, David, 2011. "The impact of emergency birth control on teen pregnancy and STIs," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 30(2), pages 373-380, March.
    4. Ted Joyce & Robert Kaestner & Sanders Korenman & Stanley Henshaw, 2004. "Family Cap Provisions and Changes in Births and Abortions," NBER Working Papers 10214, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    5. Grogan, L., 2002. "What Caused the Post-Transition Fertility Decline in Central and Eastern Europe and the Former Soviet Union?," Working Papers 2002-5, University of Guelph, Department of Economics and Finance.
    6. Martha J. Bailey & Jason M. Lindo, 2017. "Access and Use of Contraception and Its Effects on Women’s Outcomes in the U.S," NBER Working Papers 23465, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    7. Louise Grogan, 2006. "An Economic Examination of the Post-Transition Fertility Decline in Russia," Post-Communist Economies, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 18(4), pages 363-397.
    8. Phillip B. Levine, 2002. "The Impact of Social Policy and Economic Activity Throughout the Fertility Decision Tree," NBER Working Papers 9021, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    9. Jonathan Klick & Sven Neelsen & Thomas Stratmann, 2009. "The Effect of Abortion Liberalization on Sexual Behavior: International Evidence," ifo Working Paper Series 79, ifo Institute - Leibniz Institute for Economic Research at the University of Munich.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • I18 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Government Policy; Regulation; Public Health
    • J13 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Fertility; Family Planning; Child Care; Children; Youth

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