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The Power of the Pill for the Next Generation: Oral Contraception's Effects on Fertility, Abortion, and Maternal and Child Characteristics

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  • Elizabeth Oltmans Ananat

    (Duke University and NBER)

  • Daniel M. Hungerman

    (University of Notre Dame and NBER)

Abstract

This paper considers how the diffusion of oral contraception to young unmarried women affected the number and parental characteristics of children born to these women. In the short term, pill access caused declines in fertility and increases in both the share of children born with low birthweight and the share born to poor households. In the long term, access led to negligible changes in fertility while increasing the share of children with college-educated mothers and decreasing the share with divorced mothers. The short-term effects appear to be driven by upwardly mobile women opting out of early childbearing, while the long-term effects appear to be driven by a retiming of births to later ages. These effects differ from those of abortion legalization, although we find suggestive evidence that pill diffusion lowered abortions. Our results suggest that abortion and the pill are on average used for different purposes by different women, but on the margin, some women substitute from abortion toward the pill when both are available. © 2011 The President and Fellows of Harvard College and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

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Bibliographic Info

Article provided by MIT Press in its journal Review of Economics and Statistics.

Volume (Year): 94 (2012)
Issue (Month): 1 (February)
Pages: 37-51

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Handle: RePEc:tpr:restat:v:94:y:2012:i:1:p:37-51

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Cited by:
  1. Hussey, Andrew & Nikolsko-Rzhevskyy, Alex & Walker, Jay, 2010. "AIDing Contraception: HIV and Recent Trends in Abortion Rates," MPRA Paper 20895, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  2. Myers, Caitlin Knowles, 2012. "Power of the Pill or Power of Abortion? Re-Examining the Effects of Young Women's Access to Reproductive Control," IZA Discussion Papers 6661, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  3. Martha J. Bailey & Brad Hershbein & Amalia R. Miller, 2012. "The Opt-In Revolution? Contraception and the Gender Gap in Wages," American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, American Economic Association, American Economic Association, vol. 4(3), pages 225-54, July.
  4. Inna Cintina, 2013. "Behind-the-counter, but Over-the-border? The Assessment of the Geographical Spillover Effect of Increased Access to Emergency Contraception," Working Papers, University of Hawaii Economic Research Organization, University of Hawaii at Manoa 2013-6R, University of Hawaii Economic Research Organization, University of Hawaii at Manoa, revised Oct 2013.
  5. Edlund, Lena Cecilia & Machado, Cecilia, 2009. "Marriage and Emancipation in The Age of The Pill," CEPR Discussion Papers, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers 7485, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.

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