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The Power of the Pill for the Next Generation

  • Elizabeth Oltmans Ananat
  • Daniel M. Hungerman

In this paper we ask how the diffusion of oral contraception to young unmarried women affected the number and maternal characteristics of children born to these women. Using census data, we find that early pill access led to an increase in the share of children whose mothers were married, college-educated, and had professional occupations. The pill's effects on the average mother are different from the pill's effects on the average woman, and the effects of the pill on maternal characteristics are in some instances different from the effects of abortion. We investigate the mechanisms by which the pill led to these differential effects and find that access to the pill led to falls in short-term fertility rates for young women and led to decreases in lifetime fertility at the intensive and extensive margins. The impacts of the pill on household characteristics are thus associated with retiming of births, changes in the characteristics of potential mothers, changes in which women become mothers, and by reductions in completed family size. Finally, while the pill affected maternal characteristics differently than abortion, we find suggestive results that availability of the pill lowered abortions among young women.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 13402.

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Date of creation: Sep 2007
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Publication status: published as February 2012, Vol. 94, No. 1, Pages 37-51 Posted Online January 30, 2012. (doi:10.1162/REST_a_00230) © 2011 The President and Fellows of Harvard College and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:13402
Note: CH PE LS
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  1. Duncan Thomas & John Strauss & Maria-Helena Henriques, 1991. "How Does Mother's Education Affect Child Height?," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 26(2), pages 183-211.
  2. Jonathan Gruber & Phillip Levine & Douglas Staiger, 1999. "Abortion Legalization And Child Living Circumstances: Who Is The ''Marginal Child''?," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 114(1), pages 263-291, February.
  3. Claudia Goldin & Lawrence F. Katz, 2002. "The Power of the Pill: Oral Contraceptives and Women's Career and Marriage Decisions," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 110(4), pages 730-770, August.
  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.
  5. John J. Donohue & Steven D. Levitt, 2001. "The Impact Of Legalized Abortion On Crime," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 116(2), pages 379-420, May.
  6. Elizabeth Oltmans Ananat & Jonathan Gruber & Phillip B. Levine, 2004. "Abortion Legalization and Lifecycle Fertility," NBER Working Papers 10705, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  7. 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.
  8. Janet Currie & Enrico Moretti, 2003. "Mother'S Education And The Intergenerational Transmission Of Human Capital: Evidence From College Openings," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 118(4), pages 1495-1532, November.
  9. Arnaud Chevalier, 2004. "Parental Education and Childs Education: A Natural Experiment," CEE Discussion Papers 0040, Centre for the Economics of Education, LSE.
  10. Christopher L. Foote & Christopher F. Goetz, 2005. "Testing economic hypotheses with state-level data: a comment on Donohue and Levitt (2001)," Working Papers 05-15, Federal Reserve Bank of Boston.
  11. repec:eme:rlepps:v:18:y:1999:i:1999:p:75-113 is not listed on IDEAS
  12. Goldin, Claudia, 2004. "The Long Road to the Fast Track: Career and Family," Scholarly Articles 2920116, Harvard University Department of Economics.
  13. Joshua D. Angrist & William N. Evans, 1996. "Schooling and Labor Market Consequences of the 1970 State Abortion Reforms," NBER Working Papers 5406, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  14. Kerwin Kofi Charles & Melvin Stephens Jr., 2002. "Abortion Legalization and Adolescent Substance Use," NBER Working Papers 9193, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  15. Ann Huff Stevens & Marianne Page & Philip Oreopoulos, 2005. "The Intergenerational Effects of Compulsory Schooling," Working Papers 519, University of California, Davis, Department of Economics.
  16. Grant Miller, 2005. "Contraception as Development? New Evidence from Family Planning in Colombia," NBER Working Papers 11704, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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