Abstract

We evaluate the short- and long-term effects for women of access to subsidized, legal abortion by exploiting the Spanish legalization of abortion in 1985. Using birth records and survey data, we find robust evidence that the legalization led to an immediate decrease in the number of births to women aged 21 and younger. This effect was driven by provinces with a higher supply of abortion services. In those regions, young women affected by the reform were also less likely to marry. Using data from the Labor Force Survey and exploiting the rollout of abortion clinics across provinces and over time, we find evidence that the affected cohorts of women, who were able to postpone fertility as a result of the legalization of abortion, achieved higher educational attainment and had higher life satisfaction 20 years after the reform. We do not find evidence of increases in the probability of being employed.