The unintended: negative outcomes over the life cycle

Wanchuan Lin, Juan Pantano

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


We quantify the impact of abortion legalization on the incidence of unintended births. While underlying much of the literature on abortion legalization, this effect had only been approximated by previous work. We find a strong decline in the prevalence of unintended births. Moreover, we find that this decline is mainly driven by “pro-choice” women. We then propose an empirical strategy to recover the effect of being “unintended” on life cycle outcomes. We use the differential timing of abortion legalization across states interacted with the mother’s religion (which facilitates or hinders legal abortion take up) to instrument for endogenous pregnancy intention. We find that being unintended causes negative outcomes (higher crime, lower schooling, lower earnings) over the life cycle. Our paper provides an initial step towards quantifying this key mechanism behind many of the well-documented long-term effects associated with changes in reproductive health policy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)479-508
Number of pages30
JournalJournal of Population Economics
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • Abortion legalization
  • Fertility
  • Investment in children
  • Unintended pregnancies

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Demography
  • Economics and Econometrics


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