Kevin Lewis

December 05, 2017

Fertility Preferences and Cognition: Religiosity and Experimental Effects of Decision Context on College Women
Emily Marshall & Hana Shepherd
Journal of Marriage and Family, forthcoming


Better models of culture and cognition may help researchers understand fertility and family formation. The authors examine cognition about fertility using an experimental survey design to investigate how fertility preferences of college women are affected by two prompts that bring to mind fertility-relevant factors: career aspirations and financial limitations. The authors test the effects of these prompts on fertility preferences and ask how effects vary with respondent religiosity, an aspect of social identity related to fertility preferences. The authors find significant effects of treatment on fertility preferences when accounting for religiosity: Less religious women who considered their career aspirations or financial limitations reported smaller desired family size, but this effect was attenuated for more religious women. This study demonstrates how fertility preferences are shaped by decision contexts for some sociodemographic groups. The authors discuss how the findings support a social–cognitive model of fertility.

Does Parents' Access to Family Planning Increase Children's Opportunities? Evidence from the War on Poverty and the Early Years of Title X
Martha Bailey, Olga Malkova & Zoë McLaren
NBER Working Paper, October 2017


This paper examines the relationship between parents’ access to family planning and the economic resources of their children. Using the county-level introduction of U.S. family planning programs between 1964 and 1973, we find that children born after programs began had 2.8% higher household incomes. They were also 7% less likely to live in poverty and 12% less likely to live in households receiving public assistance. After accounting for selection, the direct effects of family planning programs on parents’ incomes account for roughly two thirds of these gains.

Population Group Abortion Rates and Lifetime Incidence of Abortion: United States, 2008–2014
Rachel Jones & Jenna Jerman
American Journal of Public Health, December 2017, Pages 1904-1909

Methods: We used secondary data from the Abortion Patient Survey, the American Community Survey, and the National Survey of Family Growth to estimate abortion rates. We used information from the Abortion Patient Survey to estimate the lifetime incidence of abortion.

Results: Between 2008 and 2014, the abortion rate declined 25%, from 19.4 to 14.6 per 1000 women aged 15 to 44 years. The abortion rate for adolescents aged 15 to 19 years declined 46%, the largest of any group. Abortion rates declined for all racial and ethnic groups but were larger for non-White women than for non-Hispanic White women. Although the abortion rate decreased 26% for women with incomes less than 100% of the federal poverty level, this population had the highest abortion rate of all the groups examined: 36.6. If the 2014 age-specific abortion rates prevail, 24% of women aged 15 to 44 years in that year will have an abortion by age 45 years.

Trajectories of Unintended Fertility
Sowmya Rajan et al.
Population Research and Policy Review, December 2017, Pages 903–928


Having an unintended birth is strongly associated with the likelihood of having later unintended births. We use detailed longitudinal data from the Add Health Study (N = 8300) to investigate whether a host of measured sociodemographic, personality, and psychosocial characteristics select women into this “trajectory” of unintended childbearing. While some measured characteristics and aspects of the unfolding life course are related to unintended childbearing, explicitly modeling these effects does not greatly attenuate the association of an unintended birth with a subsequent one. Next, we statistically control for unmeasured time-invariant covariates that affect all birth intervals, and again find that the association of an unintended birth with subsequent ones remains strong. This persistent, strong association may be the direct result of experiencing an earlier unintended birth. We propose several mechanisms that might explain this strong association.

The Inter-Generational Fertility Effect of an Abortion Ban
Federico Gutierrez
Vanderbilt University Working Paper, October 2017


This paper studies to what extent banning first-generation women from aborting affected the fertility of second-generation individuals who did not face such legal constraint. Using multiple censuses from Romania, I follow men and women born around the 1966 Romanian abortion ban to study the demand for children over their life cycle. The empirical approach combines elements of the regressions discontinuity design and the Heckman's selection model. Results indicate that second-generation individuals whose mothers were affected by the ban had a significantly lower demand for children. One-third of such decline is explained by inherited socio-economic status and two-thirds presumably by preferences.

State Prescription Contraception Insurance Mandates: Effects on Unintended Births
Emily Johnston & Kathleen Adams
Health Services Research, December 2017, Pages 1970–1995

Data: We pooled Pregnancy Risk Assessment Monitoring System (PRAMS) data from 1997 to 2012 to study 209,964 privately insured recent mothers in 24 states, 11 of which implemented prescription contraception coverage mandates between 2000 and 2008.

Study Design: Individual-level difference-in-differences models compare the probability of unintended birth among privately insured recent mothers in state-years with mandates to those in state-years without mandates. Additional models use aggregate data to estimate the effect of mandates on states’ number of unintended births.

Principal Findings: State mandates are associated with decreased probability of unintended birth (1.58 percentage points) among privately insured women in the second year of implementation, driven by decreased probability of mistimed birth (1.37 percentage points or 614 births per state-year) in the second year of implementation. We find no effects in the first year of implementation or on the probability of unwanted birth. Unexpectedly, recent mothers without private insurance experienced declines in unintended birth, but among unwanted, rather than mistimed, births.

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