2018 Health and Social Protection Other

The Impact of Abortion Legalization on Fertility and Female Empowerment – New Evidence from Mexico

Damian Clarke, Hanna Mühlrad

This Development Dissertation Brief (DDB) is a summary of an article written by Hanna and Damian Clarke, Associate Professor of Economics at The University of Santiago of Chile. The article was included as the third chapter of Hanna’s doctoral dissertation and examines the effect of a large-scale, free, elective abortion program implemented in Mexico City in 2007. The DDB was presented at a seminar at the Ministry for Foreign Affairs on June 12th, 2018.

The report was presented during the seminar Overcoming Barriers to Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights.

Main findings

  • The passing of the reform in Mexico provided an unprecedented case among Latin American countries, and joined very few large scale reforms of abortion in developing and emerging countries world-wide.
  • The legalization of abortion does lead to a reduction in fertility and the reduction is particularly noteworthy for younger women. This effect appears to be driven by access to legal abortion with little evidence suggesting that it leads to large changes in sexual behavior, contraceptive knowledge, or contraceptive use.
  • In the context of Mexico, large- scale abortion reform brings with it increases in women’s empowerment within the household, finding that empowerment changes accrue to fertile aged women rather than older women, as proposed in formal economic models of fertility reform.
Hanna Mühlrad is a Postdoctoral fellow at the Department of Economics at Lund University, Sweden. Her primary fields of interest are health economics, development economics, labor economics and global and public health. The main focus of Hanna’s research is how access to technologies and information regarding fertility and reproductive health affect a large range of outcomes regarding maternal and child health, maternal labor market outcomes and female empowerment in both developed and developing countries.

Damian Clarke is an Associate Professor of Economics at The University of Santiago of Chile. Damian is also a Research Fellow at IZA, and a Research Associate at The Center for the Study of African Economies, Oxford and at the Research Centre on Micro-Social Change, Essex. Damian’s research interests include maternal and child health and education, fertility and family size, and applied microeconometrics.