Momma's Got the Pill: How Anthony Comstock and Griswold v. Connecticut Shaped U.S. Childbearing
Martha Bailey, University of Michigan
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. This methodological approach allows the separation of the impact of the birth control pill from other important changes during the 1960s. The central results 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.