Later Marriage and Disappearing “Shotgun Weddings”: The Impact of Abortion on Young Women’s Marriage Decision

Ruoding Tan, City University of New York (CUNY) and CUNY Institute for Demographic Research (CIDR)

Despite the abundant evidence of fertility effects of abortion from the past literature, relatively little attention has been paid to the potential effect of abortion on the marriage market. Akerlof et al.(1996), in a seminal article, theorized that legalization of abortion could change young women’s marriage decisions by making shotgun weddings unnecessary in the event of premarital pregnancy. This paper empirically investigates the role of greater abortion access in explaining the changes in marriage rate, timing of marriage and the probability of shotgun marriage. Using Vital Statistics, CPS fertility supplements and newly collected abortion data, I find that the increase in abortion availability during the 1970s significantly reduced teen marriage rates and the probability of marrying before age 20. Empirical evidence also lends support to the hypothesis by Akerlof et al.(1996) that legalization of abortion caused fewer teen women to marry in response to birth, making shotgun marriages increasingly rare.

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Presented in Session 114: Public Policy and Families