Abortion and Health

Summary

The Romanian study provides an appropriate bookend to the work of Grossman and Jacobowitz (1981). The 25-year interval saw a large body of research devoted to identifying an empirical link between abortion and well-being. A tentative conclusion would argue for a positive association between the availability of legalized abortion services and increases in the health and well-being of the exposed cohorts. But even this modest assessment comes with many caveats. The early cross-sectional estimates must be discounted because the potential for confounding is overwhelming. Reduced-form estimates based on panel data that exploit change in policies such as parental involvement laws or Medicaid financing restrictions lack a sufficiently robust first stage to identify effects on health. The return to the early years of abortion legalization improved the first stage, but even then, statistically significant findings were not consistent and the most sensational estimates with respect to homicide have been largely discredited. Thus, the author ends with the Romania study for it provided the outsized experiment so valued in applied microeconometrics. But even in this case, the association between large changes in fertility and more schooling among the affected cohorts was modest. This suggests that long-term effects of changes in the cost of fertility control on the well-being of affected cohorts may well exist, but effects are probably too small and data too imprecise to identify them econometrically.

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Addiction and Health