Abortion Underreporting in Add Health: Findings and Implications
Well-documented, large-scale abortion underreporting on U.S. surveys raises questions about the use of abortion self-reports for statistical inference. This paper is the first to evaluate the completeness of the abortion data in the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health (Add Health). Comparisons of Add Health’s estimated abortion rates to external sources show that the Add Health data capture 35% of expected abortions. Thus, Add Health performed no better than other surveys in collecting abortion data. Further, no differences in underreporting by race/ethnicity or age at abortion were found. We suggest that the current U.S. social environment generates high levels of abortion stigma, which yields abortion underreporting. We conclude that due to underreporting, survey self-reports of abortion need to be evaluated, contextualized, and used with caution.
KeywordsAbortion Measurement Add Health Data quality
The author wishes to thank Kathleen Mullan Harris and S. Philip Morgan for their helpful and thoughtful feedback and comments on this paper. This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship under Grant No. DGE-1,650,116. Any opinion, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation. This research uses data from Add Health, a program project directed by Kathleen Mullan Harris and designed by J. Richard Udry, Peter S. Bearman, and Kathleen Mullan Harris at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and funded by Grant P01-HD31921 from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, with cooperative funding from 23 other federal agencies and foundations. Special acknowledgment is due to Ronald R. Rindfuss and Barbara Entwisle for assistance in the original design. Information on how to obtain the Add Health data files is available on the Add Health website (http://www.cpc.unc.edu/addhealth). No direct support was received from grant P01-HD31921 for this analysis. Note: Use of this acknowledgment requires no further permission from the persons named. This paper uses data from NCHS. Any opinion, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of NCHS, which is responsible only for the initial data.
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