Variation in Pill Use: Do Abortion Laws Matter?
Presenter: Amanda Felkey, Lake Forest College
Economists have studied the impact of legalized abortion on a variety of factors including women’s decision surrounding when to enter the work force and how many hours to work, schooling and most controversially crime. They have also examined the determinants of state abortion restrictions across the United States, considering the strength of interest advocacy groups and demographic characteristics. Notably absent from the existing literature is a study of the impact of legalized abortion on the use of contraceptives. Earlier work has established that states with more lenient laws regarding access to contraceptive services by minors have greater pill use, but the impact of the legal framework surrounding abortion restrictions has not been examined. This paper explores the possibility that variation in state abortion availability across the United States may generate variation in the use of birth control pills. Presumably restrictions on abortion availability may induce women to seek a reliable form of birth control to avoid unwanted pregnancies. Without the option of terminating a pregnancy, one would expect that oral contraceptives would be more widely utilized.
Our paper uses US state level data to determine if there is a significant link between abortion availability and contraceptive use. We examine the period between 1973 when the US Supreme Court ruled that a woman has a constitutional right to an abortion to the present, drawing on cesus data from 1980, 1990 and 2000. These data include an array of state level demographics (poverty, fertility rates, religion, race, marriage rates, urban population, etc.), as well as data describing particular characteristics of state-level abortion legislation. Interestingly, our findings have broader implications for economists’ understanding of individual decision making—the significance of this link sheds light on how forward thinking individuals are when making decisions. In many instances, public health policy aims to incentivize individuals to make decisions or adopt behaviors with longer term health consequences (prenatal care, smoking cessation, weight loss programs). As such, this is particularly relevant in the context of public health policymaking.
Authors: Amanda Felkey, Kristina Lybecker
Room: No.3 Hall