NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

The Power of the Pill: Oral Contraceptives and Women's Career and Marriage Decisions

Claudia Goldin, Lawrence F. Katz

NBER Working Paper No. 7527
Issued in February 2000
NBER Program(s):   LS   DAE

The fraction of U.S. college graduate women entering professional programs increased substantially around 1970 and the age at first marriage among all U.S. college graduate women soared just after 1972. We explore the relationship between these two changes and how each was shaped by the diffusion of the birth control pill among young, single college educated women. Although the pill' was approved in 1960 by the FDA and diffused rapidly among married women, it did not diffuse among young single women until the late 1960s when a series of state law changes reduced the age of majority and extended mature minor decisions. We model the impact of the pill on women's careers as consisting of two effects. The pill had a direct positive effect on women's career investment by almost eliminating the chance of becoming pregnant and thus the cost of having sex. The pill also created a social multiplier effect by encouraging the delay of marriage generally and thus increasing a career woman's likelihood of finding an appropriate mate after professional school. We present a collage of evidence pointing to the power of the pill in lowering the costs of long-duration professional education for women. The evidence consists of the striking coincidences in the timing of changes in career investment, marriage age, state laws, and pill use among young single women. The connection between changes in the age at first marriage and the pill is further explored using state variation in laws affecting young single women's pill access. We also evaluate alternative explanations for the changes in career and marriage.

download in pdf format
   (390 K)

email paper

This paper is available as PDF (390 K) or via email.

Machine-readable bibliographic record - MARC, RIS, BibTeX

Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w7527

Published: Goldin, Claudia and Lawrence F. Katz. "The Power Of The Pill: Contraceptives And Women's Career And Marriage Decisions," Journal of Political Economy, 2002, v110(4,Aug), 730-770.

Users who downloaded this paper also downloaded these:
Bailey, Hershbein, and Miller w17922 The Opt-In Revolution? Contraception and the Gender Gap in Wages
Goldin w11953 The Quiet Revolution that Transformed Women's Employment, Education, and Family
Stevenson and Wolfers w12944 Marriage and Divorce: Changes and their Driving Forces
Goldin, Katz, and Kuziemko w12139 The Homecoming of American College Women: The Reversal of the College Gender Gap
Ananat and Hungerman w13402 The Power of the Pill for the Next Generation
 
Publications
Activities
Meetings
Data
People
About

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

Contact Us