The study conducted by the University analyzed the careers of 43,000 women and showed that the earlier a woman can start taking birth control pills, the more likely she is to earn higher wages later in life.
The study attributed about one-third of women’s wage gains through the 1990s to changes in laws in the 1960s and 80s that lowered the age at which women could legally access the pill. When some states dropped the legal access age from 21 to 18, the report found contraceptive use among 18-20 year-olds doubled. This allowed more college-aged women to finish school without being interrupted by an unplanned pregnancy.
“We found that women who had early access to the pill in the 1960s and 1970s earned 8 percent more on average by the 1980s and 1990s than women without early access,” said Martha Bailey, a research affiliate at the U-M Institute for Social Research who authored the study. “As the pill provided younger women the expectation of greater control over childbearing, women invested more in their human capital and careers,” said Bailey. “Most affected were women with some college, who benefited from these investments through remarkable wage gains over their lifetimes.”
The study comes at a crucial time when women’s access to affordable contraception like the pill is under attack. Given the clear and document benefits the pill has on a woman’s earning potential, could it be that conservatives’ war on contraception is also motivated in part by a desire to keep women as economic dependents?
Photo from 401K via flickr.