Access to the Birth Control Pill and Young People's Career Plans



The paper explores the effect of unrestricted access to the birth control pill on young people's career plans and on their attitudes towards women's labor market activities, using annual surveys of college freshmen from 1968 to 1980. In particular it addresses the question of who was affected by the introduction of the birth control pill by looking at career plans of both men and women, and by separating the effect by level of academic ability. The results show that early access to the pill caused high ability women to move towards occupations with higher wages, higher occupational prestige scores and higher male ratios. The estimated effects for women with low grades and from low selectivity colleges are in the opposite direction. Men were also affected by unrestricted access to the pill, as their aspirations shifted towards traditionally male dominated occupations associated with higher wages, across all ability groups. The birth control pill is furthermore found to be related to friendlier views towards married women in the labor market among students in selective colleges. Moreover the paper uses Census data to compare the changes in career plans to actual changes in labor market outcomes. When looking at the actual career outcomes, early access to the pill affects both men and women -shifting their careers towards traditionally male dominated occupations associated with higher wages. Early access to the pill is also associated with higher income for men and higher probability of employment for women.