When the Supreme Court struck down the constitutional protection for women’s right to have an abortion, some companies said they would subsidize travel if a worker needed to leave her state to end a pregnancy.
Those announcements have resulted in a “complicated trade-off” for businesses trying to attract workers and hold onto them, according to a study released this week. On the one hand, interest spiked in jobs at those companies. On the other hand, there was also a backlash — in fact, there was a similar increase in antipathy towards the senior management at companies with abortion-friendly policies.
Those companies announcing abortion travel assistance saw an 8% increase in clicks on job postings on Indeed.com compared to similar companies that did not unveil any new abortion-related travel policy.
The 80-page study was written by economists at Indeed.com and several colleges, including the University of Southern California, the University of Maryland and the nonprofit IZA Institute of Labor Economics. Many of the clicks originated from liberal-leaning states, but also from states that immediately banned abortion after the nation’s highest court overruled its 1973 decision Roe v. Wade. The spike in clicks from those states were primarily tied to jobs typically held by women.
“Those companies announcing abortion travel assistance saw an 8% increase in clicks on job postings on Indeed.com.”
To put that increase in context or, at least, to put a monetary value on that increase in interest from job hunters: an 8% increase in clicks would also happen when a job listing increased the posted wage by 12%, the researchers said.
However, Glassdoor reviews of senior managers at firms with abortion-friendly policies declined by 8%, the researchers said. The criticism often came from reviewers in typically male-dominated jobs and it was common to hear the word “woke,” they wrote. There was some suggestion — although unconfirmed — that the negative surge originated from a “vocal minority.”
Conversely, an 8% slip in positive reviews is also akin to the fallout after revelations of some sort of corporate misconduct or tax avoidance, the researchers added.
With a patchwork of abortion laws across the country, and some states restricting and outright banning the procedure, “firms are stepping into the vacuum,” said Yana Rodgers, faculty director of the Center for Women and Work at Rutgers University, which has a mission to “promote economic and social equity for women workers.”
“It’s both a signal to their own employees, as well as to customers,” she added.
To study the reactions of customers and job hunters to job postings, the researchers compiled a database of firms that publicly announced they would cover expenses incurred for travel to obtain an abortion or related care for employees in regions where this family-planning care was no longer available or severely curtailed after Roe v. Wade was overturned.
They merged this information with data on job satisfaction, job search, and wages from Glassdoor and Indeed.com. The analysis is based on 3 billion clicks from job seekers, 2.5 million jobs postings that included wage information, and 6.5 million company reviews.
‘Polarizing’ issues for companies
Companies unveiling abortion care ultimately increased their posted wages by 4%, they said. One explanation: management raised wages for other workers to mollify those who may have been upset with those subsidies for abortion-related travel.
The results show there are no easy answers to address such politically divisive topics, said study co-author Svenja Gudell, who is chief economist at Indeed and serves on the board of directors for the National Association for Business Economics.
“Political and ideological issues that are polarizing the country right now are seeping into the workplace,” she said.
“Job seekers really do that research,” Gudell added. “They want to know who works here, and what that culture looks like.”
The study comes at a time when voters, politicians and courts are still sorting out abortion access after Roe v. Wade was overturned.
On Tuesday, Ohio voters defeated a referendum that would have made it tougher to protect abortion rights. Voters rejected the Republican-backed referendum months ahead of a November referendum to guarantee abortion access.
“At a national level, public opinion on abortion is also divided along religious, ideological and moral grounds.”
At a national level, public opinion on abortion is also divided along religious, ideological and moral grounds.
Nearly three quarters of adults (73%) said abortion should be permitted at least until six weeks into a pregnancy, according to an AP-NORC poll released in July. For poll participants living in states with the most restrictive abortion laws, 58% agreed.
In a recent Gallup poll, approximately one-third of people said they believed abortion should be legal under any circumstances, while 51% said it should be legal under certain circumstances.
Abortion is currently banned in 14 states, according to the Center for Reproductive Rights. Ohio’s ban on abortion after six weeks into pregnancy is currently blocked by a court order.
The costs of traveling for an abortion
In a review of more than 400 businesses with new abortion-related travel policies, researchers said it cost an average of $4,500 to travel to a state where abortion is accessible, and the actual costs ranged from $1,000 to $10,000.
That might be just a small part of the total costs faced by pregnant women in need of an abortion. In New York, women can have an abortion up to and including the first 24 weeks of pregnancy. From there, abortion is legal if a woman’s pregnancy or health is at risk. Still, a first-trimester procedure can start at around $600, and rise to approximately $28,000 later in pregnancy, according to one estimate.
So why do these companies offer to cover abortion-related travel? “It’s not clear what their motivation is,” Rodgers said. “I’m arguing it’s profit-maximizing behavior. But I am glad they are doing it because some women need assistance,” she said.
Another wrinkle: the spike in interest for jobs that offer financial assistance for abortion-related travel are typically for higher paying jobs. Women who held those jobs, researchers suggested, are already more likely to be able to afford to travel for an abortion out of their own pocket.
In other words, low-income women who cannot afford to travel for an abortion may not be in a position to apply for these jobs in the first place. “It is important to note this should not be a substitute for legal protections,” Gudell said.