"The miracle tablet—maybe"? Legalization of the contraceptive pill, fertility, and women's economic empowerment
With Henning Finseraas
Fertility choices are a central part of women’s empowerment. A substantial literature argues that the legalization of the birth control pill in the United States increased women's power over fertility decisions and enhanced their broader career investment. This study questions whether the broader effects hold across contexts. We use Norwegian population-wide administrative data to study the legalization of the contraceptive pill in 1967. Using a difference-in-differences design that exploits variation in distance to the nearest pharmacy, we ﬁnd an effect of the reform on teenage motherhood. Unlike the studies of the US, however, there is no impact on educational and labor market outcomes. Additionally, we use survey data to show that the impact of the pill on fertility is largest for women with an early sexual debut. Still, also for this group of women, broader effects of pill usage are absent. Our study consequently indicates that the legalization of the pill is unlikely to be a main driving force behind Norwegian women’s economic empowerment.