Demographic Determinants of Trends in Public Opinion about Abortion in the United States

J. Alex Kevern, Northwestern University
Jeremy Freese, Northwestern University

We consider the relationship between population demographic trends and trends in abortion attitudes. After an initial period of liberalizing attitudes, the US population’s attitudes toward abortion have been mostly stable over the past two decades. We explore the role of differential fertility in how population support for abortion rights has been affected by cohort replacement. Opponents of abortion rights maintain considerably higher fertility than their pro-choice counterparts, and elsewhere abortion attitudes have been shown to have a high parent child correlation. We apply these pieces of evidence to help explain the mitigation of the upward trend toward pro-choice beliefs in GSS data from 1976-2010. We also find evidence that this fertility differential has grown, despite declining fertility for both groups. We're currently working to quantify more precisely how strong the force of differential fertility is on abortion attitudes, and what kinds of population dynamics may amplify or attenuate its effects.

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Presented in Session 216: Attitudes and Demography