This project will explore how historic changes in young women's access to oral contraception affected the health of women and their children. During the 1960s and 1970s, most states changed the age at which young unmarried women could obtain a prescription for oral contraception (""""""""the pill"""""""") without their parents'consent. These policy changes created significant variation in whether women could obtain the pill across states and time. Using regression analysis on data taken from a number of readily available sources, the investigators will exploit this variation in access to the pill across place and time to examine how early legal access to the pill impacted various health-related outcomes of young women and their children. Regarding young women, the investigators will examine how early legal access to the pill affected the likelihood that a young woman gave birth, obtained an abortion, or became a single mother. Regarding the children of young women, the investigators will examine how maternal access to the pill affected child mortality and birth weight, and how maternal access to the pill affected the likelihood that a child grew up in a single parent household, in an impoverished household, or in a household on welfare or public assistance. The findings of this research project will be significant for both researchers and policy makers. The investigators know of no work in any discipline that exploits birth control's historic diffusion to examine its relationship with abortion;the connection between these two fertility control technologies remains an open question. Moreover, a large body of work in economics suggests that access to abortion had important impacts on children's living circumstances and wellbeing, but this work raises the as-yet unanswered question of whether access to the pill-the major fertility control innovation in recent history and the most popular form of contraception in the United States-also affected childhood outcomes. The investigators will make significant contributions to all of these issues. Moreover, the project will help shed light on current policy debates regarding historic demographic trends, such as the rise in single motherhood among young women occurring in the 1970s. The data needed for this project are readily obtainable and preliminary research is currently under way.

Public Health Relevance

This project is extremely relevant to public health. The project will explore how access to oral contraception affects the health outcomes of young women and their children. We will focus on contraception's effects on outcomes directly related to public health, including abortion, childhood mortality, and various socioeconomic characteristics of children. These effects have been debated by researchers and policy makers;our study will thus contribute to a key area of work on policy and public health.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health & Human Development (NICHD)
Small Research Grants (R03)
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Pediatrics Subcommittee (CHHD)
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King, Rosalind B
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University of Notre Dame
Schools of Arts and Sciences
Notre Dame
United States
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