This paper assembles new evidence on some of the longer-term consequences of U.S. family planning policies, defined in this paper as those increasing legal or financial access to modern contraceptives. The analysis leverages two large policy changes that occurred during the 1960s and 1970s: first, the interaction of the birth control pill’s introduction with Comstock-era restrictions on the sale of contraceptives and the repeal of these laws after Griswold v. Connecticut in 1965; and second, the expansion of federal funding for local family planning programs from 1964 to 1973. Building on previous research that demonstrates both policies’ effects on fertility rates, I find suggestive evidence that individuals’ access to contraceptives increased their children’s college completion, labor force participation, wages, and family incomes decades later.
A reader from Wadsworth, Ohio, named Tom Morris writes with an idea. He is a lawyer and, he says, and an “occasional acting judge in a small town”:
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In my capacity as acting judge, I find myself repeatedly dealing with the same issues. Young adults irresponsibly having kids without any ability, either monetarily or emotionally, to raise them. These unwanted kids are left unsupervised, and are more likely to commit crimes and have more unwanted kids, which continues this cycle.
While I have not crunched the numbers to support this hypothesis, it is consistent with Dr. Levitt’s study made famous from your first book. Unwanted children are a bad thing. Preventing this “bad thing” would lead to a reduction in crime, reduction in poverty, and a reduction of just about every other social ill I can think of.
The Texas Legislature is back in session, providing its usual cookie jar of absurd economic proposals. A real winner is House Bill 649, which would provide compensatory tax reductions to companies that become taxed under the Affordable Care Act because their employer-provided health insurance fails to cover employees’ emergency contraception. Such a bill means Texas would be giving firms incentives to thwart federal law. It also opens up the possibility of much broader tax offsets. I’m certain that our governor and legislature dislike the recent imposition of higher federal income tax rates on high-income families. Why not take the logic of this bill one step further and offer tax reductions (sales tax, since we have no income tax) to very high-income families? Indeed, the reductio ad absurdum would construct all state tax policy to offset to the extent possible any incentives provided by federal tax policy.
A reader named Dennis Schenkel in Martin, Tenn., writes in with an interesting commentary about an article that intersects with a lot of things we’ve written about:
First, I know I’m partisan. I’m a Catholic priest. I’m a moralist. I’m biased. That having been said, I just read an article [from 2010] … describing how better contraceptives have successfully split the previous (before 1960) “mating market” into two markets consisting of the “sex market” and the “marriage market,” the author goes on to describe how this sets up a classic “prisoner’s dilemma” for women and gives men a huge advantage in both markets. The article appears in First Things, which is a religion/philosophy/culture/arts journal inhabited mostly by orthodox Catholic and Protestant Christians. But the article’s author does his best to speak exclusively in the language of the social sciences, without moralizing.
The male-female wage gap narrowed considerably during the 1980s and 1990s, thanks to increased educational attainment among women and an influx of women into high-earning fields. Factors such as the Women’s Movement and the 1964 Civil Rights Act are often cited as the drivers of this shift, but economists are also narrowing in on another influence: the Pill. Economists have linked the Pill to “delays in marriage (among college goers) and motherhood, changes in selection into motherhood, increased educational attainment, labor-force participation, and occupational upgrading among college graduates.” Now, a new working paper (ungated version) by Martha J. Bailey, Brad Hershbein, and Amalia R. Miller examines the effect of the Pill on the male-female wage gap. Read More »
That is the possibility raised in a new paper published in BMJ Open and summarized in Science Daily. The presumptive culprit would be environmental estrogen exposure. Add this to the bulging files of Unintended Consequences of Birth Technology (the theme of a recent podcast called “Misadventures in Baby-Making.”) First, from the paper:
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Prostate cancer (PCa) is the most common male malignancy in the Western world, and risk factors associated with this cancer remain ill defined.1 The only acknowledged risk factors thus far are: age, ethnicity and family history.1 Several studies have suggested that oestrogen exposure may increase the risk of prostate cancer,2–4 while other studies have not found an association.5 6