How abortion bans could hurt women at work

Roe against Wade It is almost certain to be revoked, which could make abortion illegal in about half of the U.S. states. If this happens, historical data tells us that this will not only personally affect women, but will also endanger their professional life.

This decision, a draft of which was leaked to Politico earlier this month, affects a woman’s likelihood of work, what kind of work she does, how much education she receives, how much money she earns and even hopes and the dreams she has. it has for itself. In turn, her career affects almost every other aspect of her life, from her likelihood of living in poverty to her vision of herself.

And removing the ability to make that decision will change decades of progress that women have made in the workforce, which has a cascading effect on the place of women in society.

As Caitlin Myers, a professor of economics at Middlebury College, put it, “Motherhood is the most financially important decision most women make.”

We know all this thanks to decades of research into how banning abortion hurts women, an investigation that Myers, along with more than 150 other economists, described in a friendly letter to the Supreme Court on Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organizationthe Mississippi case that is likely to turn upside down Roe against Wade. In addition to long-term studies that specifically study the outcomes of women who were unable to have an abortion compared to those who did, there are even more robust data on the negative causal effects of having children on women in general. . It’s also just common sense, according to Jason Lindo, a professor of economics at Texas A&M University.

“Anyone who has had children or has seriously considered having them knows that it is very expensive in terms of time and money,” Lindo said. “So, of course, restrictions that make it difficult for people to have children or increase the number of children they have will have a serious impact on their careers and their economic circumstances.”

Even in the absence of a national ban, state measures against abortion have placed a heavy burden on women and society at large. The Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR) estimates that statewide restrictions have cost these economies $ 105 billion a year in reducing labor force participation, reduced income, increased turnover, and free time between women of working age.

Prohibiting abortion will not affect all women equally. Myers says that in regions of the country where abortion is banned and where travel distances will increase so that women can have an abortion, about three-quarters of women seeking an abortion will still do so. This means that about a quarter of women there, in Myers’ words, “the poorest, most vulnerable and most economically fragile women in a wide swath of the deep south and midwest” – will not receive their health services .

As the United States faces a labor shortage, led in part by women who have left the workforce to care for children and the elderly during the pandemic, the expected Supreme Court decision will aggravate the situation and will potentially change the experience of women in the workforce for years to come.

1) Women’s participation in the workforce could decline

Access to abortion is a major force that has driven women’s participation in the workforce. Nationally, women’s labor force participation rates rose from about 40% earlier Roe against Wade it rose in 1973 to almost 60% before the pandemic (male participation was almost 70% at the time). Prohibitions on abortion could frustrate or even reverse some of these gains.

Using data from the Turnaway Study, a historical study that compares the results over time of women across the country who received or were denied abortions, Professor Diana Greene Foster of the University of California at San Francisco and her fellow researchers found that six months after they were denied an abortion, women were less likely to work full-time than those who received an abortion. This difference remained significant for four years after these women were denied an abortion, a gap that could affect their job prospects even further in the future.

2) Low level of education

Education rates are critical to career prospects and salary. A 1996 study by Joshua Angrist and William Evans looked at states that liberalized abortion laws earlier. Roe against Wade i found that access to abortion leads to higher education rates and labor market outcomes. American University of Economics professor Kelly Jones used data from state abortion regulation to determine that legal access to abortion for young women who became pregnant increased their educational attainment almost a year and their chance of finishing college by about 20 percentage points. The evidence is largely based on impacts on young black women.

Another research by Jones and Mayra Pineda-Torres found that simply being exposed to specific restrictions by abortion providers, or TRAP laws, reduced the likelihood of young black teens attending or completing college. In turn, low education affects the jobs for which women are qualified.

3) The types of jobs that women get will be more restricted

Having children significantly affects the types of jobs women get, often leading them to part-time jobs or lower-paying jobs. While there is a broader ban on abortion on the horizon, many individual states have already enacted TRAP laws that make abortion difficult. This legislation has also provided a natural experiment for researchers such as Kate Bahn, chief economist at the Washington Center for Equitable Growth, a nonprofit who found that women in these states were less likely to move into higher-paying jobs. .

“We know a lot from previous research on the initial expansion of birth control pills and abortion care in the 1970s that when women have a little more certainty about their family planning, they only make decisions differently.” , Bahn told Recode.

This could lead to more occupational segregation — the over-representation of women in certain fields such as health and education, for example — which reduces wages in these fields, even when education, experience is taken into account. and location.

4) All this negatively affects income

Reducing the jobs that women get, taking time out of the workforce, receiving less education, all this harms the wages of women, which is already lower on average than men.

An article by economist Ali Abboud examining states where abortion was previously legal Roe against Wade found that young women who aborted to delay an unplanned pregnancy by just one year had an 11 percent increase in hourly wages compared to the average. Jones’ research found that legal access to abortion for pregnant young women increased their chances of gaining employment by 35 percentage points.

The IWPR estimates that if existing abortion restrictions were lifted, U.S. women would earn an additional $ 1,600 a year on average. Loss of income not only affects women who have unwanted pregnancies, but also their families and their existing children. Income, in turn, affects poverty rates not only for women who have to go through an unwanted pregnancy, but also for their existing children.

5) Lack of access to abortion limits women’s professional aspirations

Perhaps most insidious is the lack of access to abortion which seriously restricts women’s hopes for their own careers. From his team’s research at the Turnaway Studio, Foster found that women who could not get the abortion they wanted were significantly less likely to have one-year employment-related goals than those who did. probably because these goals would be much harder to achieve. while caring for a newborn. They were also less likely to have aspirational goals of one year or five years in general.

Limiting women’s autonomy over their reproductive rights reinforces the unequal status of women in a concrete and ephemeral way, IWPR President and CEO Nicole Mason told Recode C.

“It’s a very psychic, emotional, and psychological feeling: to feel and understand that my equality, my rights, are less than my male counterparts,” she said. “The law does that. The Supreme Court does that.”

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