Abortion Legalization and Lifecycle Fertility

Scholarly Edition

Previous research has convincingly shown that abortion legalization in the early 1970s led to a significant drop in fertility at that time. But this decline may have either represented a delay in births from a point where they were have represented a permanent reduction in fertility. We combine data from the 1970 U.S. Census and microdata from 1968 to 1999 Vital Statistics records to calculate lifetime fertility of women in the 1930s through 1960s birth cohorts. We examine whether those women who were born in early legalizing states and who passed through the early 1970s in their peak childbearing years had differential lifetime fertility patterns compared to women born in other states and in different birth cohorts. We consider the impact of abortion legalization on both the number of children ever born as well as the distribution of number of children ever born. Our results indicate that much of the reduction in fertility at the time abortion was legalized was permanent in that women did not have more subsequent births as a result. We also find that this result is largely attributable to an increase in the number of women who remained childless throughout their fertile years.

Cited Authors

  • Ananat, EO; Gruber, J; Levine, PB