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Differential Fertility as a Determinant of Trends in Public Opinion about Abortion in the United States (WP-14-11)

J. Alex Kevern and Jeremy Freese

Differential fertility is frequently overlooked as a meaningful force in longitudinal public opinion change. The researchers examine the effect of fertility on abortion attitudes, a useful case study due to their strong correlation with family size and high parent-child correlation. They test the hypothesis that the comparatively high fertility of pro-life individuals has led to a more pro-life population using 34 years of General Social Survey data (1977-2010). They find evidence that the abortion attitudes have lagged behind a liberalizing trend of other correlated attitudes, and consistent evidence that differential fertility between pro-life and pro-choice individuals has had a significant effect on this pattern. Future studies should account for differential fertility as a meaningful force of cohort replacement in studies of public opinion where parents and children are likely to share the same attitude.

J. Alex Kevern, PhD Candidate in Sociology, Northwestern University

Jeremy Freese, Ethel and John Lindgren Professor of Sociology, Faculty Fellow, Institute for Policy Research, Northwestern University

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