The Economic Consequences of Being Denied an Abortion

Sarah Miller, Laura R. Wherry, Diana Greene Foster

NBER Working Paper No. 26662
Issued in January 2020, Revised in May 2020
NBER Program(s):Children, Health Care, Health Economics

Restrictions on abortion are pervasive, yet relatively little is known about the financial and economic impact of being denied an abortion on pregnant women who seek one. This paper evaluates the economic consequences of being denied an abortion on the basis of the gestational age of the pregnancy. Our analysis relies on new linkages to administrative credit report data for participants in the Turnaway Study, the first study to collect high-quality, longitudinal data on women receiving or being denied a wanted abortion in the United States. Some women had pregnancies close to the facility’s gestational age limit, but below it, and received a wanted abortion (Near Limit Group). A second group of women had pregnancies just over the facility’s gestational age limit and were turned away without receiving an abortion (Turnaway Group). We link study participants to ten years of credit report data including several years prior to their recruitment into the study. Using these data, we compare differences in credit report outcomes for the two groups of women over time using an event study design. We find that the trajectories for these outcomes are similar for the two groups of women prior to the abortion encounter. However, following their visit to the abortion provider, we find evidence of a large and persistent increase in financial distress for the women who were denied an abortion that is sustained for several years. Being denied an abortion increases the amount of debt 30 days or more past due by 78 percent and increases negative public records, such as bankruptcies and evictions, by 81 percent. We conduct additional analyses that use a regression discontinuity design to compare outcomes for women just above and just below the gestation limit at each clinic and find results that are consistent with the event study analyses. We explore the mechanisms behind these findings by taking advantage of existing survey data collected for the study participants and compare the effects sizes we document to those experienced by similar women following a “typical” birth. Our results highlight important financial and economic consequences of restrictions on abortion access.

download in pdf format
   (717 K)

email paper

Machine-readable bibliographic record - MARC, RIS, BibTeX

Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w26662

NBER Videos

National Bureau of Economic Research, 1050 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA 02138; 617-868-3900; email:

Contact Us