Abortions in the United States by race

by Wm. Robert Johnston
last updated 14 April 2019

This page presents summary results for estimated abortions in the United States by race/ethnicity and by state. Results are presented primarly for four groups corresponding to categories used by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC):

Note that in typical nomenclature "Hispanic" is an ethnic characteristic that overlaps with the other racial distinctions. To illustrate the incomplete nature of available data, 2015 abortion data by race/ethnicity of mother are reported by the CDC (Jatlaoui et al., 2018) based on state health agency reporting as follows:

The two graphs and the table below show U.S. totals by race/ethnicity for 1971-2017 for live births (from CDC birth reports and author's estimates) and abortions (as estimated by the author). Note that 1971-1988 estimates (for both abortions and live births) are highly uncertain.

Live births by race/ethnicity, United States, 1965-2017, estimated:

Abortions by race/ethnicity, United States, 1965-2017, estimated:

yearlive birthsabortions (estimated)
19713,555,9702,661,000565,000 259,000 71,000 486,000356,000102,000 20,000 9,000
19743,159,9582,296,000507,000 280,000 77,000 904,000567,000244,000 62,000 25,000
19773,326,6322,389,000544,000 302,000 91,0001,317,000793,000384,000 96,000 44,000
19803,612,2582,612,000568,000 324,000104,0001,554,000971,000410,000123,000 50,000
19833,638,9332,550,000563,000 396,000129,0001,573,000929,000426,000156,000 65,000
19863,756,5472,551,000593,000 468,000139,0001,568,000864,000458,000181,000 71,000
19894,040,9682,670,000660,000 541,000170,0001,613,000828,000495,000206,000 84,000
19904,158,2122,705,000673,000 602,000178,0001,629,000828,000501,000219,000 78,000
19914,110,9072,631,000673,000 628,000180,0001,590,000783,000500,000228,000 76,000
19924,065,0142,518,000663,000 649,000236,0001,565,000735,000500,000240,000 85,000
19934,000,2402,506,000648,000 662,000185,0001,512,000697,000498,000235,000 79,000
19943,952,7672,467,000625,000 672,000189,0001,435,000647,000476,000225,000 85,000
19953,899,5892,419,000597,000 690,000193,0001,361,000583,000463,000229,000 86,000
19963,891,4942,394,000587,000 711,000200,0001,364,000585,000460,000231,000 88,000
19973,880,8942,368,000590,000 719,000204,0001,326,000571,000442,000230,000 84,000
19983,941,5532,392,000600,000 743,000207,0001,302,000565,000426,000228,000 83,000
19993,959,4172,377,000596,000 772,000215,0001,277,000538,000413,000238,000 85,000
20004,058,8142,389,000611,000 823,000236,0001,313,000530,000431,000262,000 91,000
20014,025,9332,341,000593,000 857,000235,0001,289,000506,000419,000267,000 98,000
20024,021,7262,313,000581,000 882,000246,0001,271,000488,000411,000274,000 99,000
20034,089,9502,338,000579,000 919,000254,0001,252,000469,000422,000259,000102,000
20044,112,0522,315,000582,000 954,000260,0001,221,000447,000416,000257,000102,000
20054,138,3492,296,000587,000 993,000262,0001,209,000433,000415,000259,000103,000
20074,316,2332,327,000631,0001,071,000287,0001,210,000438,000406,000275,000 91,000
20084,247,6942,284,000627,0001,051,000286,0001,213,000427,000416,000277,000 93,000
20094,130,6652,227,000614,0001,008,000282,0001,154,000405,000398,000263,000 88,000
20103,999,3862,176,000593,000 953,000277,0001,104,000384,000379,000254,000 87,000
20113,953,5902,160,000586,000 926,000282,0001,060,000366,000360,000247,000 86,000
20123,952,8412,149,000587,000 917,000300,0001,010,000349,000344,000232,000 85,000
20133,932,1812,143,000587,000 909,000293,000 959,000322,000333,000220,000 84,000
20143,988,0762,164,000593,000 923,000309,000 927,000323,000317,000204,000 83,000
20153,978,4972,146,000593,000 934,000306,000 896,000308,000309,000197,000 82,000
20163,945,8752,117,000572,000 949,000308,000 875,000294,000303,000200,000 79,000
20173,855,5002,051,000575,000 928,000301,000 851,000280,000295,000195,000 77,000
yearlive birthsabortions (estimated)

Estimates for abortion by race/ethnicity were produced as follows: For years 1989-2017, available abortion data by race/ethnicity of mother were compiled from CDC abortion surveillance reports and supplemented by state health agency reporting. Live birth data by race/ethnicity of child were compiled from CDC birth reporting (e.g., Martin et al., 2017). Total abortions for each state are based on data reported by the CDC or the states supplemented by the author's estimates (Johnston, 2018, 2019). Proportions of reported abortions by race/ethnicity are applied to total abortions for each state. For states where abortion data by race/ethnicity are incomplete (either not all four groups are included or data are missing for some years), abortions are estimated assuming consistency in relative abortion ratios for the four groups. Where no data by race/ethnicity are available at all for a state (Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, New Hampshire), relative abortion ratios are assumed similar to overall national values. For years 1971-1988, estimates are highly uncertain. Estimates of Hispanic population were used to estimate white Hispanic and non-Hispanic live births. Guttmacher Institute abortions estimates are available for 1973-1988 for white (both Hispanic and non-Hispanic) and non-white (both black and other) women. Estimated breakdowns for the four groups were produced based on comparisons to live birth data. Abortion data by race is available for 1971 for New York City and Hawaii (Nelson et al., 1972; Zimring, 1971), which account for nearly half of estimated 1971 abortions nationwide.

The next graph shows abortion percentage (abortions as a fraction of total live births plus abortions) by race/ethnicity over time. Abortion percentage for blacks has consistently been much higher than percentages for other racial/ethnic groups.

Abortion percentage (relative to total live births and abortions) by race/ethnicity, United States, 1965-2017, estimated:

The next two graphs show the fraction of all U.S. abortions and live births by racial/ethnic groups.

Fraction of all abortions by race/ethnicity, United States, 1965-2017, estimated:

Fraction of all live births by race/ethnicity, United States, 1965-2017, estimated:

Total estimated abortions by race/ethnicity for 1965-2018 (and compared to current population) are:

The CDC does not provide breakdowns of abortions among races grouped as "other"--Asian, American Indian, Native Alaskan, and Pacific Islander. For at least some years in 1993-2017, some breakdowns were reported by 27 states: Alaska, Arizona, California, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Washington, and Wisconsin. As seen in the next graph, data from these states show generally similar abortion percentages among these racial groups. (Unlike data presented above, the abortion percentages in the graph below are not adjusted for underreporting or unknown race.) Asian American abortion percentages are slightly higher than for the other groups. When states are compared, American Indian abortion percentages are generally higher than Asian abortion percentages in states with high overall abortion percentages, but generally lower in states with low overall abortion percentages.

Based on the preceding data, here are estimates of live births and abortions for the United States for 2017:

yearlive birthsabortionsabortion
number% of totalnumber% of total
American Indian/Alaskan Native31,3000.87,0000.818.4
Pacific Islander10,4000.32,4000.318.6

The chart below shows the relative fractions of live births and abortions in the United States by race and ethnicity for 2017. The overall pie segments represent the fractions of pregnancies (live births plus abortions) by group. Within each racial/ethinic group, the darker color represents the fraction of pregnancies ending in abortion (all areas are proportional to estimated numbers).

The maps below shows abortion percentages by state and by race, where abortion percentage is abortions as a percentage of the total of live births and abortions (excluding miscarriages and stillbirths). Several comments:

Sources: (incomplete)

© 2019 by Wm. Robert Johnston.
Last modified 14 April 2019.
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