Friday, October 17, 2008

Poverty and abortion rates

This is very interesting. A recent report titled "Reducing Abortion in America: The Effect of Economic and Social Supports" by Joseph Wright, assistant professor of political science at Penn State University and Michael Bailey, associate professor at Georgetown University, focused on figuring out why abortion rates dropped dramatically in the 1990s (the number of abortions dropped by from 18-21% between 1990-2000 depending on whose numbers you use. The higher number was by the Center for Disease Control, a non-partisan group. The number of abortions has steadily increased since 2000). They looked at welfare policy, aid to pregnant women, Medicaid and other factors.

They found:

* States that spent more on welfare -- or cut welfare more slowly -- had many fewer abortions. The authors estimate that if every state increased spending on welfare by $1,350 per person living in poverty, there would be a 20% reduction of abortion.

* States that spend more generously on aid to women, infants and children (WIC) had lower abortion rates. They estimate that if states were to increase spending on WIC we could see up to a 37% lower abortion rate.

* During the welfare reform of the 1990s, some states instituted "family cap" policies that would not pay welfare benefits for children born to women already receiving welfare. States that did not have a family cap -- and kept providing welfare even after new children were born -- had about a 15% lower abortion rate than states with a family cap. The authors estimate that getting rid of the family caps would result in 150,000 fewer abortions.

* States that had higher male employment had a 29% lower abortion rate.
The authors noted that other surveys have indicated that women often cite economic factors for having an abortion. They concluded therefore that women who had more economic help -- either from the government or a wage-earning spouse -- felt less pressured to have abortions.

These findings, they conclude, indicate that "pro-family policies reduce abortions."

The complete study can be read here:

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