In the fifty years since birth control became legal in the United States, it has proven itself to be one of the most transformative inventions of the 20th century. Birth control has made it possible for women to take control of their reproductive cycles and to have children on their own terms, on their own time.
Today, 99 percent of sexually active women use contraception, and 82 percent have used oral contraceptives, according to the CDC. No matter their reason for using birth control, it has undoubtedly made their lives easier, safer and healthier.
But did you know that birth control has also made women's lives more financially rewarding? The invention of oral contraceptives has had monumental impact upon the educational and economic history of the United States — especially as it relates to women:
1: Access to contraception has enabled more women to pursue college degrees.
Unsurprisingly, a strong link exists between access to birth control and the number of women in higher education. Several studies of young, single women in the late 1960s to 1970s (when birth control first became prevalent) found that contraception played a significant role in increased college enrollment for women.
More recently, Martha J. Bailey, an economist at the University of Michigan, studied women between the ages of 18 and 21, and found that college enrollment was 20 percent higher among those who had had legal access to the pill at age 18, compared with women who did not legally obtain the pill in late adolescence.
Furthermore, in a working paper from Washington DC's Mathematica Policy Research, economist Heinrich Hock found that acces to the pill reduced female dropout rates by over five percentage points.
2: Access to contraception has allowed more women to earn professional degrees.
The number of women earning degrees in fields such as medicine, dentistry and law sharply increased beginning around 1970, and several researchers tout oral contraceptive as a major driver in making professional education realistic for young women.
Between the 1960s and 1980, the proportion of women in medical school more than quadrupled, and the proportion of women in business administration and law school increased 13- and 14-fold, respectively, according to the Guttmacher Institute.
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