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"Momma's Got the Pill": How Anthony Comstock and Griswold v. Connecticut Shaped US Childbearing

  • Martha J. Bailey

The 1960s ushered in a new era in US demographic history characterized by significantly lower fertility rates and smaller family sizes. What catalyzed these changes remains a matter of considerable debate. This paper exploits idiosyncratic variation in the language of "Comstock" statutes, enacted in the late 1800s, to quantify the role of the birth control pill in this transition. Almost 50 years after the contraceptive pill appeared on the US market, this analysis provides new evidence that it accelerated the post-1960 decline in marital fertility. (JEL J12, J13, K10, N31, N32)

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Article provided by American Economic Association in its journal American Economic Review.

Volume (Year): 100 (2010)
Issue (Month): 1 (March)
Pages: 98-129

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Handle: RePEc:aea:aecrev:v:100:y:2010:i:1:p:98-129
Note: DOI: 10.1257/aer.100.1.98
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  1. Willis, Robert J, 1973. "A New Approach to the Economic Theory of Fertility Behavior," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 81(2), pages S14-64, Part II, .
  2. Martha J Bailey, 2006. "More Power to the Pill: The Impact of Contraceptive Freedom on Women's Life Cycle Labor Supply," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 121(1), pages 289-320, 02.
  3. Marianne Bertrand & Esther Duflo & Sendhil Mullainathan, 2004. "How Much Should We Trust Differences-in-Differences Estimates?," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 119(1), pages 249-275, February.
  4. Shelly Lundberg & Robert A. Pollak, 2007. "The American Family and Family Economics," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 21(2), pages 3-26, Spring.
  5. Robert T. Michael & Robert J. Willis, 1973. "Contraception and Fertility: Household Production Under Uncertainty," NBER Working Papers 0021, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. Pritchett, Lant H. & DEC, 1994. "Desired fertility and the impact of population policies," Policy Research Working Paper Series 1273, The World Bank.
  7. Melanie Guldi, 2008. "Fertility effects of abortion and birth control pill access for minors," Demography, Springer, vol. 45(4), pages 817-827, November.
  8. Becker, Gary S & Lewis, H Gregg, 1973. "On the Interaction between the Quantity and Quality of Children," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 81(2), pages S279-88, Part II, .
  9. Katz, Lawrence & Goldin, Claudia, 2002. "The Power of the Pill: Oral Contraceptives and Women's Career and Marriage Decisions," Scholarly Articles 2624453, Harvard University Department of Economics.
  10. Arellano, M, 1987. "Computing Robust Standard Errors for Within-Groups Estimators," Oxford Bulletin of Economics and Statistics, Department of Economics, University of Oxford, vol. 49(4), pages 431-34, November.
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