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

Serkan Ozbeklik, Claremont McKenna College

This paper examines the long-term impact of legalized abortion on teenage out-of-wedlock childbearing, which started declining in the early 1990s in the U.S. My fundamental argument is analogous to Donahue and Levitt (2001): by decreasing the number of unwanted births, legalized abortion could have reduced the likelihood of the teenage out-of-wedlock childbearing for the cohorts born after the legalization. I adopt a non-parametric approach that allows for a separate effect of the 1970 legislations in the repeal states- California, New York, Washington, Alaska, and Hawaii- and Roe vs. Wade ruling in 1973 on Whites and African-Americans. I find that for African-Americans, both changes lead to a long-term reduction in out-of-wedlock 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.

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Presented in Session 21: Fertility, Politics and Public Policy