The Pill and the College Attainment of American Women and Men

Heinrich Hock, Florida State University

This paper considers the educational consequences of the increased ability of young women to delay childbearing as a result of the birth control pill. To identify the effects of the pill, I utilize quasi-experimental variation in U.S. state laws governing access to contraception among female adolescents during the 1960s and 1970s. Inference based on these laws indicates that, by lowering the incidence of early fertility, unconstrained access to the pill increased the enrollment rate of college-age women by almost 5 percentage points. Further, early pill access was associated with an increase in college completion rates of approximately 0.9 percentage points among women over thirty. Finally, I analyze the educational outcomes of men in relation to the contraceptive laws governing their likely female partners during adolescence. The results suggest that higher education opportunities for men might also have been constrained by undesired early fertility among their female partners.

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Presented in Session 19: Timing of Childbearing: Life Course and Relationship Contexts