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Unformatted text preview: Career and Marriage in the Age of the Pill Claudia Goldin* Lawrence F. Katz* Genuine change in the economic and social status of U.S. women did not emanate simply from their increased labor force participation but, rather, from their increase in professions and as “career women.” Those changes first began in the late 1960s and early 1970s. We examine here one factor of momentous importance in this break with the past. The Economist (December 31, 1999) recently named it the greatest science and technology advance in the twentieth century. It is the oral contraceptive, known worldwide by its moniker “the pill.” In 1960 18.4 percent of professionals were women, as were 4.7 percent of “high powered professionals.” 1 But in 1998 36.4 percent of professionals were women and 25.1 percent of the “high powered” subset were. We explore in this article a series of connections that link the birth control pill to the increase of women in professional occupations. Our evidence for the impact of the pill relies largely on the timing of various changes. Changes in laws giving minors certain adult rights and lowering the age of majority enabled young and unmarried women to obtain the pill. Young women’s control over their fertility directly reduced the costs to them of engaging in long-term career investments. The pill also served to increase the age at first marriage and thus indirectly reduced a potential penalty of delaying marriage to pursue professional education and training. All of these changes began in the late 1960s and early 1970s. But the late 1960s and early 1970s were years of tumultuous social and political change. How can we separate the impacts of affirmative action, the resurgence of feminism, changes in social norms, and abortion reform from the impact of the pill? The simple answer is that the timing of several of these changes is far less convincing than is that of the pill in affecting career investment. But that is not the complete answer. The economic impact of the pill did not occur in isolation. Legal change made it possible for young women to obtain contraceptives. These changes, paradoxically, did not stem primarily from concerns regarding access to contraception. They were, instead, part of the larger political movement of the 1960s. The pill, moreover, unleashed social change by enabling an increase in the age at first marriage. There is no doubt, as well, that the rebirth of feminism, long in the making, served to complement and reinforce the pill’s impact. Our argument for the importance of the pill in affecting women’s career decisions relies on the correspondence among breaks in various time series and in the logic of the relationships among the pill, career, and marriage. We will begin with the time series on career and marriage, which can be viewed as the dependent variables. The evidence on the diffusion of the pill, or the independent variable, is taken up next. The logic of our argument relating pill use, career, and...
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This note was uploaded on 02/08/2012 for the course FIN FIN4345 taught by Professor Koij during the Spring '10 term at FIU.
- Spring '10