The Long-Term, Extremely Positive Effects Of Birth Control In America

October 21, 2013 • Family Planning, Reproductive Health, United States, News

The Long-Term, Extremely Positive Effects Of Birth Control In America

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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.

The debate about birth control sometimes misses an essential point – that making it available and affordable meant people could make smarter decisions about whether and when to have children. That freedom meant brighter futures for whole generations of Americans and their children, according to new research.

About 50 years ago, there were two major shifts in access to birth control and family planning. First, the landmark Supreme Court case Griswold vs. Connecticut ended restrictions on the sale of contraceptives, and second, the federal government significantly boosted funding for family planning from 1964 to 1973. According to a new working paper from University of Michigan economist Martha Bailey, these changes have had far-reaching, positive effects that are still being felt today.

Contraceptives and family planning helped boost college completion rates, labor force participation, wages, and family income for the children of parents who had access.

There are a few major reasons for this, but essentially, when people are able to delay having children and have fewer of them, they tend to be more financially secure and better able to help their children succeed.

Here’s the full list of why contraception and family planning can boost outcomes for children:

  • Unwanted and ill-timed childbearing is reduced.
  • The price of avoiding or delaying children is reduced, so more parents will choose to do so.
  • Family sizes decrease, so more parental time and resources can be invested in each child.
  • Delaying parenthood is easier, allowing parents to invest in their own education or job security, boosting income and outcome in the long run.
  • Marriage is more easily delayed, potentially leading to better spouse choices and fewer divorces.
  • Subsidization helps poor families in particular, and they may choose to delay or avoid having children.

The results are pretty significant. Increased access to family planning is linked to 2% to 3% higher adult incomes for children born as contraception became more common. College completion increases by 2% to 7% for children whose mothers had access to family planning.

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