The Effect of Statutory Rape Laws on Teen Birth Rates
Northwestern University - School of Law
Matthew C. Harding
Stanford University - Department of Economics
June 6, 2013
Cornell Legal Studies Research Paper No. 13-89
Statutory rape laws have sometimes been premised on the goal of reducing teenage pregnancies and live births by teenage mothers. In this paper, we explore whether expansions in such laws are indeed associated with reductions in these outcomes. In order to codify these expansions, we use a national micro-level sample of sexual encounters to simulate the degree to which such encounters generally implicate the relevant laws. This simulation approach facilitates the comparability across jurisdictions of reforms to these multi-faceted legal structures. Our results suggest that live birth rates to teenage mothers may fall by roughly 11 percent upon an increase from 0 to 100 percent in the degree to which sexual activity among a given age group triggers a felony for the elder party to the encounter. We do not find strong results, however, suggesting a further decline upon an increase in the severity of punishment associated with given violations.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 65
Keywords: criminal law, deterrence, statutory rape, public health
JEL Classification: K14, K42, I18working papers series
Date posted: June 9, 2013 ; Last revised: January 16, 2014
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