Research Handbooks in Law and Economics series
Edited by Lloyd R. Cohen and Joshua D. Wright
Chapter 11: A Survey of the Literature on Early Legal Access to the Birth Control Pill and its Influence on Young Women’s Fertility, Education, Career and Labor Supply
* Melanie Guldi** 1 INTRODUCTION Young women and teens in particular are on the precipice of making decisions that can significantly affect their life course. These decisions may influence myriad outcomes of interest to researchers and policy makers, including but certainly not limited to fertility, marriage, household formation and allocation of household resources, career choice, and labor market participation. Furthermore, women’s decisions in these areas may in turn influence the next generation’s outcomes. It is difficult, however, to study these outcomes because to do so one has to contend with a tremendous amount of endogeneity. Like many areas of policy interest, the trick is to identify an appropriate strategy to disentangle cause from effect. State-cohort variation produced by legislative changes, judicial decisions and state policy changes during the late 1960s and early 1970s that enabled many young women to obtain the birth control pill (the Pill) and abortion services, has recently been identified by researchers1 as a plausible source of exogenous variation. Figure 11.1 provides an illustration on how dramatically fertility and marriage decisions changed from 1950 to 1980. In this chapter, I discuss the work by researchers who have used legal variation to study whether, and if so by how much, a change in the cost of reproductive control affects socio-economic outcomes. My review is focused on the literature that examines early legal access to the Pill and less so on studies that only examine legalized abortion.2 For completeness, however, I describe the legal background on abortion as well. The...
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