The effects of contraception on female poverty

J Policy Anal Manage. 2014 Summer;33(3):602-22. doi: 10.1002/pam.21761.


Poverty rates are particularly high among households headed by single women, and childbirth is often the event preceding these households' poverty spells. This paper examines the relationship between legal access to the birth control pill and female poverty. We rely on exogenous cross-state variation in the year in which oral contraception became legally available to young, single women. Using census data from 1960 to 1990, we find that having legal access to the birth control pill by age 20 significantly reduces the probability that a woman is subsequently in poverty. We estimate that early legal access to oral contraception reduces female poverty by 0.5 percentage points, even when controlling for completed education, employment status, and household composition.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Contraception Behavior / statistics & numerical data*
  • Contraceptive Agents, Female / economics
  • Contraceptive Agents, Female / supply & distribution*
  • Contraceptives, Oral, Hormonal / economics
  • Contraceptives, Oral, Hormonal / supply & distribution*
  • Data Collection
  • Family Planning Services / economics*
  • Family Planning Services / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Female
  • Health Services Accessibility / economics*
  • Health Services Accessibility / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Humans
  • Marital Status / statistics & numerical data
  • Poverty / statistics & numerical data*
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy, Unplanned
  • Residence Characteristics / statistics & numerical data
  • Socioeconomic Factors*
  • United States
  • Young Adult


  • Contraceptive Agents, Female
  • Contraceptives, Oral, Hormonal