The Effect of Abortion Legalization on Teenage Out-of-Wedlock Childbearing in Future Cohorts

Serkan Ozbeklik
2006 Social Science Research Network  
This paper examines the long-term impact of legalized abortion on teenage out-of-wedlock childbearing, which has been in constant decline since the early 1990s in the United States. Our argument is that, to the extent that it prevented unwanted births, legalized abortion could have reduced the likelihood of the teenage out-of-wedlock childbearing for the cohorts born after the legalization. This is analogous to the argument of Donahue and Levitt (2001) for crime but extends their analyses to a
more » ... heir analyses to a different context. We adopt a non-parametric approach that allows for a separate effect on Whites and African-Americans of the 1970 legalizations in the repeal states -California, New York, Washington, Alaska, and Hawaii -and the Roe v. Wade ruling in 1973. We find that for African-Americans, both changes lead to a long-term reduction in out-ofwedlock teenage childbearing. For Whites, there is no evidence supporting a long-term effect of the 1970 legalizations, but the cohorts born after Roe v. Wade in the non-repeal states show a reduction in teenage out-of-wedlock childbirth. Our findings are consistent with Levine et al. (1999) , who find that the early legalization in the repeal states had a much stronger effect on the immediate fertility of Non-Whites than Whites. Finally, our results show that legalized abortion can potentially account for at least 30 percent of the 45 percent decline in the teenage out-ofwedlock childbearing among 15-17 year olds for African-Americans and 35 percent of the 24 percent decline for Whites in the 1990s. JEL classification: J13, J19
doi:10.2139/ssrn.905311 fatcat:tdnf6onyx5beppxuuk2j7svlly