Objectives: The reliability of abortion self-reports has raised questions about the general usefulness of surveys in research about abortion behavior; however, the extent of underreporting remains a subject of some debate. This study sought to examine abortion reporting in a sample of welfare mothers and to determine factors in underreporting.
Methods: In New Jersey, which covers abortions requested by welfare recipients under its Medicaid program, the responses of a randomly drawn sample of 1236 welfare mothers about abortion events were compared with the Medicaid claims records of these women.
Results: Only 29% of actual abortions were self-reported by the women in the sample. This finding varied dramatically by race, with substantially higher rates of underreporting by Blacks than by Whites or Hispanics.
Conclusions: Although race is the most consistent predictor of underreporting behavior, attitudinal factors and survey technology also help in explaining abortion reporting behavior.