The Unwanted: Underlying Mechanisms for Unfavorable Outcomes over the Life Cycle

Wanchuan Lin, Peking University
Juan Pantano, Washington University in St. Louis

Unwanted pregnancies induce negative life-cycle outcomes. Policy changes that enhance women’s ability to avoid unwanted pregnancies can be used to identify the effect of unwanted fertility on several outcomes. We use data from birth certificates to test whether early access to the pill led to significant changes in a particular form of early investment, prenatal care, relying on a natural experiment in early access to the pill induced by policy changes during the ‘60s and ‘70s. We expect access to contraceptive technology improvements to increase the fraction of pregnancies carried to term under adequate prenatal care. We also use pregnancy intention data from the Panel Study of Income Dynamics to estimate the causal effect of being unwanted on birth weight, an outcome with important long-term consequences and other life-cycle outcomes. Exogenous variation in contraceptive possibilities and abortion legal status can be used to instrument for self-reported unwanted fertility in these models.

  See extended abstract

Presented in Session 108: Unintended Pregnancies