The Effect of Abortion Legalization on Teenage Out-of-Wedlock Childbearing in Future Cohorts
Claremont McKenna College; Claremont McKenna College
IEPR Working Paper No. 06.50
In this paper we examine the long-term impact of legalized abortion on teenage out-of-wedlock childbearing in the United States using birth data from the Vital Statistics of the U.S. Our fundamental argument is analogous to Donahue and Levitt's (2001) and Donahue et al. (2002): by decreasing the number of unwanted births, legalized abortion had potentially a negative impact on the likelihood of the teenage out-of-wedlock childbearing for the cohorts affected by the legalization. We adopt a non-parametric approach that allows for a separate effect of each of the different legalizations for Whites and African-Americans. Our approach provides a strong test of the idea that legalized abortion affected teenage out-of-wedlock childbearing. Levine et al. (1999) have shown that the early legalization in the repeal states had a stronger effect on the fertility of Non-Whites than Whites, so it should be the case that the effect of the early legalization was stronger for African-Americans than Whites. We find that this is indeed the case. Thus our results provide a potential explanation for why the African-American teenage out-of-wedlock birthrate started falling before the White birth rates. Specifically we find that for African-Americans, both 1970 legalization in repeal states and Roe vs. Wade had a long-term impact on out-of-wedlock teenage childbearing so that the cohorts exposed to legalized abortion were less likely to give birth out-of-wedlock as teenagers. For Whites, we do not find evidence supporting an effect of the 1970 legalization in the repeal states, but our findings suggest that cohorts affected by Roe vs. Wade were less likely to give birth out-of-wedlock as teenagers. We also find that our model passes a specification test indicating that it is indeed valid to take the legalization in the repeal states as exogenous.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 48
Keywords: Abortion legalization, teenage out-of-wedlock childbearing, Roe vs. Wade
JEL Classification: J13, J19working papers series
Date posted: May 31, 2006
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