Analysis Shows Complex Geography of Abortion Rates

June 13, 2012 — The availability and provision of abortion services is "stunningly unequal" across the U.S., according to an analysis by The Atlantic Cities co-founder and editor at large Richard Florida and researchers at the Martin Prosperity Institute.

The analysis is based on data from a 2011 CDC report and a 2011 study from the Guttmacher Institute that include information on where abortions take place and where the women who obtain them reside. The researchers also analyzed how cultural, economic and political factors might affect abortion rates.

"Abortion and reproductive health services are more readily available in more affluent, more educated, more knowledge-based states, while women in poorer states with more traditional blue-collar economies face fewer, if any, choices for reproductive health services and must contend with far greater restrictions on their reproductive rights," Florida wrote in a summary of the findings.

He noted that the Guttmacher study found that 87% of U.S. counties -- accounting for one-third of women of reproductive age -- lack an abortion provider. In non-metropolitan counties, the percentage rises to 97%, while about seven in 10 metropolitan counties lack an abortion provider.

Associations With Other Factors

The researchers noted correlations between many cultural, economic and demographic factors and where women obtain abortions. They found that abortion rates tended to follow "the red and blue political patterning of the states," with more abortions occurring in states that voted for President Obama than in states that voted for Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) in the 2008 presidential election.

Socio-economic class -- accounting for income, education and occupation -- was the factor most strongly associated with abortion rates, the analysis found. Abortion rates were higher in areas with higher average incomes, more college graduates, and workforces engaged in professional, technical and creative work (Florida, The Atlantic Cities, 6/11).