Child Maltreatment, Abortion Availability, and Economic Conditions

Published in: Review of Economics of the Household, v. 2, no. 2, June 2004, p. 119-141

Posted on RAND.org on December 31, 2003

by Marianne P. Bitler, Madeline Zavodny

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Child maltreatment is a substantial problem in the U.S. yet has received relatively little attention form economists. This article examines the relationship between abortion availability and economic factors at the time children were conceived and subsequent measures of child maltreatment in the U.S. as well as the influence of contemporaneous economic conditions. Our measures of child maltreatment are state-level rates of child abuse and neglect reports, the fraction of children receiving social services, and child deaths and murders. The results indicate that legalized abortion for each successive cohort led to a decline in total reported incidents of child abuse and neglect of about 10 percent and a negative effect on the fraction of children receiving social services. Child deaths and murders are not related to abortion legalization. Medicaid funding restrictions are associated with increase in substantiated reports of abuse and an increase in murders by relatives or parents; other post-legalization restrictions are not consistently associated with the various measures of child maltreatment. The effects of welfare benefits, average income, and unemployment rates are mixed.

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