How birth control boosts women’s salaries

at 12:23 PM ET, 03/06/2012

Much of the birth control debate has focused on what it means for women’s health and well-being to have access to contraceptives. But as Annie Lowrey notes, birth control can also have a significant economic impact on womens’ economic lives. She parses the research on how the pill has influenced women’s earnings:

A study by Martha J. Bailey, Brad Hershbein and Amalia R. Miller helps assign a dollar value to those tectonic shifts. For instance, they show that young women who won access to the pill in the 1960s ended up earning an 8 percent premium on their hourly wages by age 50.
Such trends have helped narrow the earnings gap between men and women. Indeed, the paper suggests that the pill accounted for 30 percent – 30 percent! – of the convergence of men’s and women’s earnings from 1990 to 2000.

Some of that might have to do with the pill’s impact on educational attainment: In a working paper, Florida State University’s Heinrich Hock found unrestricted access to contraceptives to be associated with “increasing female college enrollment rates by over 2 percentage points and reducing the dropout rate by over 5 percentage points.”

Expanded access to birth control has an impact on state governments, too: A study out this week from The Brookings Institute’s Adam Thomas finds that every dollar Medicaid spends on expanding family planning programs saves a state $5.62 by reducing unintended pregnancies.

 
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