The Effect of Statutory Rape Laws on Teen Birth Rates

Michael Frakes

Cornell University - Law School

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, I18

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Date posted: June 9, 2013 ; Last revised: January 16, 2014

Suggested Citation

Frakes, Michael and Harding, Matthew C., The Effect of Statutory Rape Laws on Teen Birth Rates (June 6, 2013). Cornell Legal Studies Research Paper No. 13-89. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=2275636 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2275636

Contact Information

Michael Frakes (Contact Author)
Cornell University - Law School ( email )
524 College Ave
Myron Taylor Hall
Ithaca, NY 14853
United States
Matthew C. Harding
Stanford University - Department of Economics ( email )
Landau Economics Building
579 Serra Mall
Stanford, CA 94305-6072
United States
650-723-4116 (Phone)
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