Journal Article

The list experiment for measuring abortion: What we know and what we need

Measuring abortion incidence and prevalence is often difficult because of under-reporting and other biases, complicated research designs, and other issues. Recently, family planning researchers have introduced a new method called the list experiment, adopted from political science and economics, to measure abortion. Three completed studies and at least four studies currently underway use this method to measure abortion in several countries. We discuss the lessons learned from completed studies, when the list experiment may and may not be appropriate, and open questions regarding the use of the list experiment for abortion research. This method has the potential to improve measures of abortion prevalence and incidence, which could translate to better-informed interventions to increase abortion access and reduce unmet need for family planning. Future research should further clarify the advantages and limitations of the list experiment for measuring abortion.

Published in a peer-reviewed journal of the Population Council. Heidi Moseson is Epidemiologist and Caitlin Gerdts is Vice President for Research, Ibis Reproductive Health, Oakland, CA. Emily Treleaven is NICHD Postdoctoral Fellow at the Population Studies Center, University of Michigan. Nadia Diamond-Smith is Assistant Professor, Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, Department of Global Health Sciences, University of California, San Francisco.