NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

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

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

NBER Working Paper No. 17922
Issued in March 2012
NBER Program(s):   CH   DAE   ED   LS

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.

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This paper was revised on June 20, 2012

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w17922

Published: Martha J. Bailey & Brad Hershbein & Amalia R. Miller, 2012. "The Opt-In Revolution? Contraception and the Gender Gap in Wages," American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, American Economic Association, vol. 4(3), pages 225-54, July.

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