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The Impact of Social Policy and Economic Activity Throughout the Fertility Decision Tree


  • Phillip B. Levine


This paper considers the impact of changes in abortion and welfare policies along with economic conditions over the 1985 to 1996 period at each stage of the fertility decision tree, including sexual activity, contraception, pregnancy, abortion, and birth. Examining the impact of policy at each stage of the decision tree represents a useful approach because consistent findings provide stronger evidence of a causal link than focusing on just one stage. The abortion policies considered are parental involvement laws and mandatory waiting periods; welfare policies include benefit generosity as well as state-level welfare waivers as a whole and the 'family cap.' State-level data over this period are used to examine abortion, birth, and pregnancy outcomes, while microdata from the 1988 and 1995 National Surveys of Family Growth are employed to examine sexual activity and contraception. For those policies that target certain subgroups of the population, estimates are provided separately for each group and compared to help further identify causality. I find that parental involvement laws increase contraception use among minors, leading to fewer pregnancies and, therefore, fewer abortions; teen births do not rise in response. Evidence regarding welfare policies does not consistently support any impact throughout the decision tree.

Suggested Citation

  • 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.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:9021
    Note: HE LS PE

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    1. repec:aph:ajpbhl:1991:81:3:294-298_0 is not listed on IDEAS
    2. Phillip B. Levine, 2001. "The Sexual Activity and Birth-Control Use of American Teenagers," NBER Chapters,in: Risky Behavior among Youths: An Economic Analysis, pages 167-218 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. Deborah Haas-Wilson, 1996. "The Impact of State Abortion Restrictions on Minors' Demand for Abortions," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 31(1), pages 140-158.
    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. Butz, William P & Ward, Michael P, 1979. "The Emergence of Countercyclical U.S. Fertility," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 69(3), pages 318-328, June.
    6. Cook, Philip J. & Parnell, Allan M. & Moore, Michael J. & Pagnini, Deanna, 1999. "The effects of short-term variation in abortion funding on pregnancy outcomes," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 18(2), pages 241-257, April.
    7. Melissa Schettini Kearney, 2004. "Is There an Effect of Incremental Welfare Benefits on Fertility Behavior?: A Look at the Family Cap," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 39(2).
    8. 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 7-95-4, Pennsylvania State - Department of Economics.
    9. Levine, P.B. & Trainor, A.B. & Zimmerman, D.J., 1995. "The Effect of Medicaid Abortion Funding Restrictions on Abortions, Pregnancies, Birth," Papers 95-08, Wellesley College - Department of Economics.
    10. Ann E. Horvath-Rose & H. Elizabeth Peters, 2000. "Welfare Waivers and Non-Marital Childbearing," JCPR Working Papers 128, Northwestern University/University of Chicago Joint Center for Poverty Research.
    11. 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.
    12. Phillip B. Levine & Douglas Staiger, 2002. "Abortion as Insurance," NBER Working Papers 8813, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    13. repec:aph:ajpbhl:1986:76:4:397-400_4 is not listed on IDEAS
    14. Joyce, Theodore & Kaestner, Robert, 1996. "State reproductive policies and adolescent pregnancy resolution: The case of parental involvement laws," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 15(5), pages 579-607, October.
    15. Deborah Haas-Wilson, 1993. "The economic impact of state restrictions on abortion: Parental consent and notification laws and medicaid funding restrictions," Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 12(3), pages 498-511.
    16. 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.
    17. Robert L. Ohsfeldt & Stephan F. Gohmann, 1994. "Do Parental Involvement Laws Reduce Adolescent Abortion Rates?," Contemporary Economic Policy, Western Economic Association International, vol. 12(2), pages 65-76, April.
    18. Thomas J. Kane & Douglas Staiger, 1996. "Teen Motherhood and Abortion Access," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 111(2), pages 467-506.
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    Cited by:

    1. Mike Brewer & Anita Ratcliffe & Sarah dSmith, 2012. "Does welfare reform affect fertility? Evidence from the UK," Journal of Population Economics, Springer;European Society for Population Economics, vol. 25(1), pages 245-266, January.
    2. Schmidt, Lucie, 2007. "Effects of infertility insurance mandates on fertility," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 26(3), pages 431-446, May.
    3. Kamila Cygan-Rehm & Regina T. Riphahn, 2014. "Teenage pregnancies and births in Germany: patterns and developments," Applied Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 46(28), pages 3503-3522, October.
    4. Melissa S. Kearney & Phillip B. Levine, 2012. "Why Is the Teen Birth Rate in the United States So High and Why Does It Matter?," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 26(2), pages 141-163, Spring.
    5. Robert Kaestner & Sanders Korenman & June O'Neill, 2003. "Has welfare reform changed teenage behaviors?," Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 22(2), pages 225-248.
    6. Melissa S. Kearney & Phillip B. Levine, 2009. "Subsidized Contraception, Fertility, and Sexual Behavior," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 91(1), pages 137-151, February.
    7. Leonard M. Lopoo & Sara McLanahan & Irwin Garfinkel, 2003. "Explaining The Trend In Teenage Birth Rates From 1981-1999," Working Papers 960, Princeton University, Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, Center for Research on Child Wellbeing..
    8. Levine, Phillip B., 2003. "Parental involvement laws and fertility behavior," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 22(5), pages 861-878, September.
    9. repec:pri:cheawb:adriana_booms is not listed on IDEAS
    10. 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.
    11. Rajeev Dehejia & Adriana Lleras-Muney, 2003. "The Timing of Births: Is the Health of Infants Counter-Cyclical?," NBER Working Papers 10122, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    12. Elizabeth Ananat & Anna Gassman-Pines & Christina Gibson-Davis, 2013. "Community-Wide Job Loss and Teenage Fertility: Evidence From North Carolina," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 50(6), pages 2151-2171, December.
    13. Ho-Po Crystal Wong, 2015. "The Quantity and Quality Adjustment of Births when Having More is Not Subsidized: the Effect of the TANF Family Cap on Fertility and Birth Weight," Working Papers 15-04, Department of Economics, West Virginia University.
    14. Sen, Bisakha & Wingate, Martha Slay & Kirby, Russell, 2012. "The relationship between state abortion-restrictions and homicide deaths among children under 5 years of age: A longitudinal study," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 75(1), pages 156-164.
    15. repec:pri:crcwel:wp02-05-lopoo is not listed on IDEAS

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • I18 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Government Policy; Regulation; Public Health
    • I38 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Welfare, Well-Being, and Poverty - - - Government Programs; Provision and Effects of Welfare Programs

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