NBER Working Papers by Joanna Lahey

Contact and additional information for this authorAll publicationsWorking Papers only

Working Papers

January 2013Birthing a Nation: The Effect of Fertility Control Access on the 19th Century Demographic Transition
During the 19th century, the US birthrate fell by half. While previous economic literature has emphasized demand-side explanations for this decline—that rising land prices and literacy caused a decrease in demand for children—historians and others have emphasized changes in the supply of technologies to control fertility, including abortion and birth control. In this paper I exploit the introduction during the 19th century of state laws governing American women’s access to abortion to measure the effect of changes in the supply of fertility technologies on the number of children born. I estimate an increase in the birthrate of 4 to 12% when abortion is restricted, which lies within the ranges of estimates found for the effect of fertility control supply restrictions on birthrates today. Th...
February 2006State Age Protection Laws and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act
Some anti-discrimination laws have the perverse effect of harming the very class they were meant to protect. This paper provides evidence that age discrimination laws belong to this perverse class. Prior to the enforcement of the federal law, state laws had little effect on older workers, suggesting that firms either knew little about these laws or did not see them as a threat. After the enforcement of the federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) in 1979, white male workers over the age of 50 in states with age discrimination laws worked between 1 and 1.5 fewer weeks per year than workers in states without laws. These men are also .3 percentage points more likely to be retired and .2 percentage points less likely to be hired. These findings suggest that in an anti-age discrimina...
June 2005Age, Women, and Hiring: An Experimental Study
As the baby boom cohort reaches retirement age, demographic pressures on public programs such as social security may cause policy makers to cut benefits and encourage employment at later ages. This paper reports on a labor market experiment to determine the hiring conditions for older women in entry-level jobs in Boston, MA and St. Petersburg, FL. Differential interviewing by age is found for these jobs. A younger worker is more than 40% more likely to be offered an interview than an older worker. No evidence is found to support taste-based discrimination as a reason for this differential and some suggestive evidence is found to support statistical discrimination.
September 2003Becoming Oldest-Old: Evidence from Historical U.S. Data
with Dora L. Costa: w9933
We argue that the environment determines life span, using historical data to show that such indicators of environmental insults in early childhood and young adulthood as quarter of birth, residence, occupation, wealth, and the incidence of specific infectious diseases affected older age mortality. Consistent with improvements in early life factors, we find that the effect of quarter of birth on older age mortality has diminished over the twentieth century and that the declining impact of quarter of birth explains 16 to 17 percent of the difference in ten year mortality rates of Americans age 60-79 in 1900 and in 1960-1980. We estimate that at least one-fifth of the increase between 1900 and 1999 in the probability of a 65 year old surviving to age 85 may be attributable to early life condi...

Contact and additional information for this authorAll publicationsWorking Papers only


National Bureau of Economic Research, 1050 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA 02138; 617-868-3900; email:

Contact Us