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“Momma’s Got the Pill”: How Anthony Comstock and Griswold v. Connecticut Shaped US Childbearing BY MARTHA BAILEY American Economic Review, 2010
Central Question What role has access to contraception played in the post-Baby Boom decline in fertility? Time Magazine named the Pill the greatest technological advance of the 20th century. As opposed to: “the ‘contraceptive revolution’ . . . Ushered in by the Pill has probably not been a major cause of the sharp drop in fertility in recent decades.” --Gary Becker
Previous Work on the Pill • * Goldin and Katz 2002: Document how early access to the Pill led to greater educational attainment and delayed marriage among college-going women. • Bailey 2006: Early access leads to greater LFP for women. • Guldi 2008: Early access leads to reduced fertility among whites • Ananat and Hungerman 2012: The composition of children born to women changed with early access. Early access reduced abortions. • But what did it do for married and older women?
What does this paper do? • Uses variation in access from Comstock laws and from a Supreme Court case to examine impact on married women during the 1960s. • Gives theoretical motivation for how access to contraception could affect fertility.
Theoretical Relationship Key idea: There are both fixed and marginal costs associated with preventing births using contraception. Low fixed costs, high marginal costs: withdrawal, abstinence High fixed costs, low marginal costs: Pill, IUDs * Figure 3: Easy access to Pill lowers total cost of preventing births.
Comstock Laws and Griswold • Comstock Laws: • 1873 Comstock Act that regulated interstate mailing of contraception • Followed by state policies that restricted sale and/or advertising of contraception. Some states had physician exceptions. • Struck down by Griswold v. Connecticut in 1965 (right to privacy) • Note: most of the work of this paper was in documenting the laws!
Empirical Analysis • Did sales bans slow the diffusion of oral contraception? • Were Comstock sales bans related to changes in the demand for children from 1955 to 1965? • What was the impact of the Pill on marital childbearing? • Uses 1995 Growth of American Families survey, 1965 and 1970 National Fertility Surveys for 1 and 2. • Uses birth certificate data for 3.
The Impact on Fertility Bailey estimates the failure rate for contraception in 1955 at 17.7%. Does a very cool thing—uses this to figure out what we expect the effect of Pill access on fertility to be (if the Pill only decreased failure rates). Equation 3 is the differences-in-differences strategy. Under some assumptions, she calculates that the fertility gap in the U.S. between states w/sales bans and without should grow by almost 6 births per 1,000 women of childbearing age due to failure rates alone. Uses equation 4 to estimate differences for each year, then plots in a figure.
Discussion & Conclusions By 1965 the difference in the general fertility rate had grown by ~8 births/1,000 women of childbearing age. → ~124,600 births occurred in 1965 that would not have if there had been no Comstock laws. Without the bans, the marital fertility rate would have been 4% lower in the U.S. as a whole. Bailey argues that at least 40% of the 1955-1965 decline in fertility is due to the Pill.
Discussion & Conclusions • Policy implications? • Role of research like this in policy debates
Abortion Legalization and Child Living Circumstances: Who is the “Marginal Child”? By Jonathan Gruber Philip Levine Douglas Staiger The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Feb. 1999 (Based on presentation by Tessa Demmerle, ‘13)
Central Question • Would the marginal child who was not born once abortion was legalized have grown up in different circumstances than the average child? • How does abortion influence the selection of which women carry pregnancies to term? • Positive selection: • Negative selection:
What do we Know? • Levine et. al find that legalization of abortion in early 1970s led to an 8% reduction in the birthrate • Micro-data analyses focusing on the characteristics of women that are correlated with their decision to abort • Large number of studies show positive effect of abortion availability on infant outcomes
What does this paper do? • Examines effect of change in abortion availability in the 1970s on living circumstances of cohorts • Two “natural experiments”: • Change in the five states that preceded Roe v. Wade vs. the rest of the country, 1971 • Change for the rest of the country versus these five states following 1973 decision, 1974 • Uses “differences-in-differences” strategy
Data • 5 percent Public Use Micro Sample (PUMS) of 1980 Census • Also use data on birthrates from Vital Statistics of the United States • Focus on 3 measures of living circumstances: • Living in poverty • Living in a single-parent household • Living in a household receiving welfare
Regression Framework • Two tests of effect of legalization on avg. living standards: • If (+) selection, living circumstances should improve for cohorts born after 1970 in repeal states relative to non-repeal states • If (+) selection, living circumstances should improve for cohorts born after 1973 in the non-repeal states
Results: Table 1OLS Estimates of Reduced-Form Equations for Birthrate and Birth Outcomes
Conclusions • Find evidence of positive selection • The marginal child is: • 60% more likely to live in a single-parent household • 50% more likely to live in poverty • 45% more likely to live in a household that collects welfare • More likely to die in the first year of life • Effect on budgets of federal and state govts through reduced welfare receipt (-73,500 families, -$480 million in 1980; -173,400 families, -$1.1 billion)
Discussion • Economic standpoint? • Catholic standpoint?