Eagle Forum Legislative Alerts

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Yellen on how abortion has hurt marriage and women

The breakdown of the American family in the last 50 years has had many causes. The new Federal Reserve Bank chairman appointee, Janet Yellen, published her own theory in 1996, as noted by James Taranto.

She co-authored an economic study that blamed the increased availability of abortion and contraceptives. Not that she is against these changes, as she is a typical liberal and says that "attempts to turn back the technological clock by restricting abortion and contraception would now be counterproductive."

The paper said:
Rubin [1969], who studied working-class whites in San Francisco in the late 1960s, found that courtship was brief and quite likely to involve sexual activity. In the event of pregnancy, marriage occurred. One of her subjects expressed the matter succinctly and with the absence of doubt with which many social customs are unquestionably observed: "If a girl gets pregnant you married her. There wasn't no choice. So I married her." ...

The fact that the birth of the baby is now a choice of the mother has implications for the decisions of the father. The sexual revolution, by making the birth of the child the physical choice of the mother, makes marriage and child support a social choice of the father. This second model explores how the decisions of the father depend upon the decisions and options of the mother. The logic of this model corresponds to what one contributor to the Internet wrote to the Dads' Rights Newsgroup: "Since the decision to have the child is solely up to the mother (see Roe v. Wade) I don't see how both parents have responsibility to that child.... When one person has the decision-making power, they alone have the responsibility to provide and care for that decision." In this second model, out-of-wedlock birth is the consequence of a sequence of decisions
This makes sense, except for the part about "child support a social choice of the father." Child support payments are ordered by the family court based on DNA tests, and the father has no choice.

She argues that the availability of abortion and contraceptives even undermined the marriages of people who did not believe in them, by comparing those people to 19th century hand-loom weavers.
Both the advent of female contraception and the legalization of abortion are analogous to technical change: each has shifted out the frontier of available choices. While the morality of using these options generates heated debate, family planners have viewed female contraception and abortion as welfare-improving for women: they have made women free to choose. But technological innovation creates both winners and losers. A cost-saving innovation almost invariably penalizes producers who, for whatever reason, fail to adopt it. The hand-loom weavers of Britain in the early nineteenth cen- tury are the classic illustration of this point. In the case of female contraception and abortion, women who want children, and women who, because of indecision or religious conviction have failed to adopt the new innovations, have lost disproportionately.
To a non-economist, it seems strange that a technological or social change that benefits one group can have a detrimental effect on others who do not appear to be directly affected. But history is full of such examples.

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