More Power to the Pill: The Effect of Contraceptive Freedom on Women's Labor Supply

Martha Bailey, Vanderbilt University

The release of "Enovid" in 1960, the first birth control pill, allowed U.S. women unprecedented freedom to plan childbirth and their labor market careers. With the pill, women could delay pregnancy at little cost during the ages critical to building human capital and learning market skills. Using a series of laws, which liberalized access to contraception and data from the June and March Supplements to the CPS, this paper evaluates the importance of younger access to the pill in explaining women's recent participation growth. The results suggest that women with early access to contraception participated approximately 8 percent more at ages 26 to 30 and, once in the labor market, worked approximately 142 more hours annually, an increase of 30%. These estimates imply that changes in legal access to contraception account for one fifth to one third of the growth in women's participation from 1960 to 1980.

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Presented in Poster Session 1: Fertility Determinants, Family Planning, and Sexual Behavior