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The Opt-In Revolution? Contraception and the Gender Gap in Wages

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  • Martha J. Bailey
  • Brad Hershbein
  • Amalia R. Miller

Abstract

Decades of research on the U.S. gender gap in wages describes its correlates, but little is known about why women changed their career paths in the 1960s and 1970s. This paper explores the role of "the Pill" in altering women's human capital investments and its ultimate implications for life-cycle wages. Using state-by-birth-cohort variation in legal access, we show that younger access to the Pill conferred an 8-percent hourly wage premium by age fifty. Our estimates imply that the Pill can account for 10 percent of the convergence of the gender gap in the 1980s and 30 percent in the 1990s.

Suggested Citation

  • Martha J. Bailey & Brad Hershbein & Amalia R. Miller, 2012. "The Opt-In Revolution? Contraception and the Gender Gap in Wages," NBER Working Papers 17922, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:17922
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • J13 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Fertility; Family Planning; Child Care; Children; Youth
    • J16 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Economics of Gender; Non-labor Discrimination
    • J3 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Wages, Compensation, and Labor Costs
    • N32 - Economic History - - Labor and Consumers, Demography, Education, Health, Welfare, Income, Wealth, Religion, and Philanthropy - - - U.S.; Canada: 1913-

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