Cohort Abortion Measures for the United States


  • Sarah K. Cowan

    1. Assistant Professor, Department of Sociology, New York University; and Robert Wood Johnson Health and Society Scholar, Columbia University.
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Demographers interested in abortion in the United States have thus far focused on cross-sectional and synthetic cohort measures, reflecting data availability. We now have cohorts that have completed their entire reproductive years after the Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion nationwide. For women who are still in their childbearing years at the conclusion of data collection, I apply the Lee-Carter forecasting technique—its first application in abortion research—to project their completed age-specific abortion rates. Using true cohort measures reveals markedly different abortion experiences by cohort; in particular, a significant declining trend. I find stability in the distribution of abortion by abortion order and the racial composition of abortion incidences. In addition to the substantive findings, cohort measures shift the focus of quantitative abortion research from incidence rates to women's lives over their reproductive years.