Roe V. Wade and American Fertility

30 Pages Posted: 12 Jul 2000  

Phillip B. Levine

Wellesley College; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Douglas Staiger

Dartmouth College - Department of Economics; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Thomas J. Kane

University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) - School of Public Policy & Social Research; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

David J. Zimmerman

Williams College

Date Written: June 1996

Abstract

We consider the effect of abortion legalization on births in the United States. A simple theoretical model demonstrates that the impact of abortion legalization on the birth rate is ambiguous, because both pregnancy and abortion decisions could be affected. We use variation in the timing of legalization across states in the early 1970's to estimate the effect of abortion on birth rates. Our findings indicate that states legalizing abortion experienced a 5% decline in births relative to other states. The decline among teens, women over 35, and nonwhite women was even greater: 13%, 8%, and 12% respectively. Out-of-wedlock births declined by twice as much as births in wedlock. If legalization in some states affected birth rates in neighboring states (through travel to obtain an abortion), comparing births between states will underestimate the actual reduction. Using more distant comparison states increases the estimated impact of abortion legalization on birth rates to about 8%. Applying this estimate to the current level of births, a complete recriminalization of abortion would result in 320,000 additional births per year.

Suggested Citation

Levine, Phillip B. and Staiger, Douglas and Kane, Thomas J. and Zimmerman, David J., Roe V. Wade and American Fertility (June 1996). NBER Working Paper No. w5615. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=225552

Phillip B. Levine (Contact Author)

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
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Wellesley College ( email )

106 Central Street
Wellesley, MA 02181
United States
781-283-2162 (Phone)
781-283-2177 (Fax)

Douglas Staiger

Dartmouth College - Department of Economics ( email )

Hanover, NH 03755
United States
603-643-2979 (Phone)

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Thomas J. Kane

University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) - School of Public Policy & Social Research ( email )

Box 951656
Los Angeles, CA 90095
United States

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

David J. Zimmerman

Williams College ( email )

Williamstown, MA 01267
United States
413-597-2192 (Phone)

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