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Martha J. Bailey photo

Momma's Got the Pill: How Anthony Comstock and Griswold v. Connecticut Shaped U.S Childbearing

Publication Abstract

Bailey, Martha J. 2009. "Momma's Got the Pill: How Anthony Comstock and Griswold v. Connecticut Shaped U.S Childbearing." NBER Working Paper 14675

The 1960s ushered in a new era in U.S. demographic history characterized by sharp reductions in family size. To estimate the importance of oral contraception in this transition, this paper develops a new empirical strategy based upon idiosyncratic variation in the language of "Comstock" laws. The central results of this analysis suggest that the birth control pill accelerated the reduction in the fertility rate in the early 1960s and facilitated the transition to the two-child household. The implications of these results reach beyond the 1960s, as reduced fertility has had a lasting impact on the American family and economy.

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Country of focus: United States of America.

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