Here’s a good discussion of the link between abortion and poverty. The number of abortions (and pregnancies) skyrocketed after Roe v. Wade, but in the last couple of decades both numbers have declined. Poverty has fluctuated between 11-15%, but at much higher frequencies. So while there’s only been one “abortion cycle”, there’s been 3-4 “poverty cycles” since the Supreme Courts landmark decision.
DarwinCatholic concludes there isn’t much of a relationship between poverty and the level of abortion:
The trend is actually very interesting. As the poverty rate was rising sharply from 1979 through 1982, the abortion rate dropped. The same thing happened during the poverty rate rises of 1990-1993 and 2001-2004. Even more interesting, however, is that during these first two downturns, although the abortion rate levelled in the first case and continued dropping in the second, the abortion ratio increased during both of those periods. What that means is that although women were not getting abortions at a higher rate during these periods, they were conceiving at a higher rate. People avoided pregnancy at a higher rate (thus decreasing the number of planned pregnancies) but did not abort at a higher rate.
If people were aborting more because of the rise in poverty, one would expect to see the actual abortion rate go up during these periods. Instead, we see that people avoided pregnancy (thus decreasing the percentage of total pregnancies which were “planned pregnancies”) but actually reduced the rate at which they aborted.
I’ve done some back of the spreadsheet (xls here) analysis to more or less confirm this conclusion. The regression of abortions on lagged abortions and 10th percentile income level suggest increasing the poor’s income by one standard deviation (about $700) reduces the number of abortions by about 34 thousand (or about 3% of the total, less than a third of the standard deviation in the number of abortions).
To explain the dynamics of abortion, he has some interesting things to say:
Why has abortion really been falling? I think it’s significant that the abortion rate is falling in such a tight correlation to the number of years since the peak. This indicates, it seems, some sort of self-correcting mechanism going on. Perhaps it’s partly a re-introduction of restrictions on abortion, both cultural and legal. Perhaps it’s partly a build-up of painful experience, which has overcome the initial impression that the costs of getting pregnant (and getting out of getting pregnant) are not as high as they were before 1973. Either way, it seems that some force that is building with time is continuing to drive the abortion rate down without any current signs of slowing.
Update: minor typos