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The Power of the Pill: Oral Contraceptives and Women's Career and Marriage Decisions

  • Claudia Goldin
  • Lawrence F. Katz

The fraction of U.S. college graduate women entering professional programs increased substantially just after 1970, and the age at first marriage among all U.S. college graduate women began to soar around the same year. We explore the relationship between these two changes and the diffusion of the birth control pill ("the pill") among young, unmarried college graduate women. Although the pill was approved in 1960 by the Food and Drug Administration and spread rapidly among married women, it did not diffuse among young, single women until the late 1960s after state law changes reduced the age of majority and extended "mature minor" decisions. We present both descriptive time series and formal econometric evidence that exploit cross-state and cross-cohort variation in pill availability to young, unmarried women, establishing the "power of the pill" in lowering the costs of long-duration professional education for women and raising the age at first marriage.

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Article provided by University of Chicago Press in its journal Journal of Political Economy.

Volume (Year): 110 (2002)
Issue (Month): 4 (August)
Pages: 730-770

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Handle: RePEc:ucp:jpolec:v:110:y:2002:i:4:p:730-770
Contact details of provider: Web page: http://www.journals.uchicago.edu/JPE/

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  1. Gabor Kezdi, 2005. "Robus Standard Error Estimation in Fixed-Effects Panel Models," Econometrics 0508018, EconWPA.
  2. Bergstrom, T. & Bagnali, M., 1991. "Courtship as a Waiting Game," Papers 91-3, Michigan - Center for Research on Economic & Social Theory.
  3. Goldin, Claudia, 1992. "Understanding the Gender Gap: An Economic History of American Women," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780195072709, March.
  4. Akerlof, George A & Yellen, Janet L & Katz, Michael L, 1996. "An Analysis of Out-of-Wedlock Childbearing in the United States," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 111(2), pages 277-317, May.
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