Cohort Abortion Measures for the United States: An Application of an Old Technique Reveals New Findings

Sarah K. Cowan, University of California, Berkeley

Demographers interested in abortion have thus far focused on cross-sectional and synthetic cohort measures, due to data availability. We now have cohorts that have completed their entire reproductive years after the Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion federally. For women who are in the midst of their childbearing years at the conclusion of data collection, I apply the Lee-Carter forecasting technique – its first application in abortion research – to complete their age-specific abortion rates. Using true cohort measures reveals markedly different abortion experiences by cohort. Further, racial differences in abortion rates are larger when considered in a cohort measure than in previous cross-sectional and synthetic cohort estimates. In addition to the substantive findings, cohort measures shift the focus of quantitative abortion research from incidence rates to women’s lives over their reproductive years.

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Presented in Session 179: Innovations in Data Collection and Measurement on Fertility and Sexual Behavior