Martha Bailey (Department of Economics, National Poverty Center and Population Studies Center, University of Michigan), Olga Malkova, Zoe McLaren
11/19/2012, at noon in room 6050 ISR-Thompson.
The well-known correlation between high rates of childbearing and poverty provided an important rationale for the first U.S. family planning programs. The architects of the War on Poverty viewed reducing unwanted childbearing as a means of promoting opportunities for children and, thus, achieving broader and longer-term economic prosperity. Using the county-level roll-out of these programs between 1964 and 1973 and detailed geographic identifiers from the 1970 and 1980 decennial Censuses, we provide new evidence that family planning programs increased the economic resources available to U.S. children.
Children born after the introduction of local family planning programs lived in measurably more educated and affluent households by 1980 than children born just before. Not only did county-level birth rates fall by 2% within 6 years of introducing family planning programs, but the share of children living in poverty and in households receiving public assistance fell by 5% and 15%, respectively, within the same time period. Ongoing research considers whether the causal mechanisms for these relationships reflect selection (changes in the composition of mothers giving birth) or parents’ self-investment in their human capital and careers (leading to them having higher incomes once children are born).