February 4, 2014

JAMES TARANTO: Skid Roe: What accounts for declining abortion rates?

One factor both the Post piece and the study cite is “the economy,” meaning the recession that began in late 2007 and the slow recovery that has followed. “Women and couples facing economic uncertainty may have been particularly motivated to postpone, or even forgo, childbearing,” Guttmacher speculates. Fertility rates declined as unemployment rose: “Presumably, then, more women and couples were making conscious decisions to avoid pregnancy and so resumed or continued using contraceptives.” Then again, abortion is also a means to avoid childbearing, so the economic downturn would cut both ways.

One difficulty with the explanations discussed so far is that they involve recent technological and economic trends. Thus they cannot explain the long-term decline in the abortion rate, which is quite clear in the chart that accompanies the Post piece. The rate climbed steadily in the middle and late 1970s before peaking at 29.3 in 1980. The trend has been steadily downward ever since and was especially sharp during the booming 1990s.

Read the whole thing.