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Birth Control: Did The Pill boost women’s earnings?

http://www.readthespirit.com/ourvalues/wp-content/uploads/sites/17/2013/03/wpid-0605_ov_time_magazine_cover.jpgTHE PILL pops up in headlines, again and again. This 2010 TIME magazine cover marked the 50th anniversary of May 9, 1960, when the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the sale and use of Enovid, the first product widely known as “The Pill.”Birth control is back in the news as various groups react to the “contraceptive mandate” that requires employers to provide insurance coverage for birth control. There are many issues at play. One of them is liberty, and it comes in different forms. Some religious leaders object to the mandate for religious organizations, citing a violation of religious liberty. Others don’t object on religious grounds, but see the mandate as yet another encroachment of the federal government into private lives. Still others herald the mandate as the extension of liberty to women, assuring them control over their reproductive decisions. Others decry it for the very same reason. (On Monday, I reported on Gallup’s latest findings about Americans’ attitudes toward the morality of birth control.)

Today, we look at one important aspect of the availability of birth control—the effect of the Pill on women’s career choices and ultimately on earnings.

Is it possible that changes in earnings are linked to The Pill?
Yes, according to economists Martha J. Bailey, Brad Hershbein, and Amalia R. Miller who examined these issues in their new study, “The Opt-In Revolution: Contraception and the Gender Gap in Wages.”

The gender gap in earnings closed considerably in the 1980s and 1990s. Based on a sophisticated analysis, these economists estimate that “10 percent of the narrowing in the gender gap during the 1980s and 31 percent during the 1990s can be attributed to early access to The Pill.”

How did this happen? The availability of birth control enabled women to plan both career decisions and childbearing. They altered their “human capital investments,” which is economist lingo for saying that more women went to college, and more education translated into higher earnings. The effect of The Pill had decades-long implications.

Did The Pill change life in your family?

Do you agree with the economic analysis of its impact?

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Originally published at www.OurValues.org, an experiment in civil dialogue about American values.

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