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Company-Sponsored, Out-of-State Abortion Benefits a Poor Substitute for State Policies, Research Finds

Study Shows Negative Reaction From Existing Employees After Initial Spike in Job-Seeker Interest

By Gregory Muraski

close-up of the Supreme Court building

Company initiatives that help employees obtain out-of-state abortion care are an unsatisfactory substitute for for state policies sanctioning abortion, according to new research by Evan Starr, associate professor of management and organization in the Robert H. Smith School of Business.

Photo by Ian Hutchinson/Unsplash

Company plans to help employees access a full range of reproductive care in response to the Dobbs v. Jackson Supreme Court ruling, which last summer overturned federal abortion rights, have had mixed results, according to new research co-authored by a University of Maryland expert.

While companies that offered out-of-state abortion travel benefits enjoyed a substantial rise in job seeker interest, they suffered a deterioration in employee satisfaction. Overall, the results published this week on the Social Science Research Network website “suggest that company-sponsored, out-of-state abortion care policies are unlikely to substitute for state policies sanctioning abortion,” says Evan Starr, associate professor of management and organization in the Robert H. Smith School of Business.

Starr, whose previous research was central to a Biden administration proposal to block noncompete agreements, collaborated with Indeed Hiring Lab economists Pawel Adrjan, Svenja Gudell and Allison Shrivastava; Emily Nix, assistant professor of finance and business economics at the University of Southern California Marshall School of Business; and Jason Sockin, a postdoctoral scholar with IZA Institute of Labor Economics in Berlin.

The researchers combined employer data with job search data from Indeed covering 3 billion job seeker clicks on U.S. job postings and 6.5 million company reviews on Glassdoor. They found that hundreds of employers announced support for reproductive health care, including covering out-of-state employee travel for abortions, following the Dobbs v. Jackson.

Those employers, which had more female and more Democratic-leaning employees, saw an 8% increase in clicks on their job postings compared with similar jobs at similar employers who did not announce a policy. Higher job seeker interest was concentrated in Democratic-leaning states and in typically female-dominated jobs in states where abortion became illegal after the ruling.

But satisfaction dropped among existing employees at the announcing firms, with online ratings of senior management falling 8%, driven by workers in typically male-dominated jobs.

Announcing firms raised posted wages in job postings by 4% relative to non-announcing firms. The effect was strongest at firms where existing employee job satisfaction fell most.

“These results highlight the complicated trade-off employers face from engaging in sociopolitical dialogue, in particular how signals of company culture can help recruit new workers but alienate current ones,” the research team wrote.



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