Date

2018

Department or Program

Economics

Primary Wellesley Thesis Advisor

Phillip Levine

Additional Advisor(s)

Kyung Park

Additional Advisor

Eric Hilt

Abstract

In debates on abortion, individuals often align themselves with the pro-life or the pro-choice position, citing moral and philosophical arguments. While both sides raise valid and important points in defense of their views, it would also be beneficial to consider arguments based in the economics of fertility. My thesis studies the variation in abortion policies across eight Eastern European countries over the period of 1985 to 1995 to examine whether children born when access to abortion was heavily restricted have different outcomes than children whose parents had access to abortion at the time of conception. I also compare the outcome of the marginal child, who is not born when abortion is legal, but would be born if abortion were banned, to the outcome of the average child in its cohort (the child who would be born in either policy environment). Implementing a quasi-experimental empirical approach, I find that a child born in a year when abortion was legal only to save a mother's life is 1.6 percent more likely to graduate from primary school compared to a child born when abortion was available on request. Further, the marginal child is 14 percent more likely to graduate from primary school than the average child in its cohort. These results are consistent with a situation where even when abortion is available on request in a country, it remains accessible only to women of a more educated or affluent background. When abortion is banned, only these women have more children. Due to the new inflow of children from higher socio-economic backgrounds, on average, this cohort will graduate from primary school at higher rates. These findings contribute to existing evidence from Eastern Europe of the effect of abortion policy changes on the educational outcomes of children, as I rely on several abortion policy shifts in multiple countries. Thus, my thesis provides an interesting perspective on international abortion policy debates.

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