Study: Women with access to the Pill earned higher wages

An economics study has found that women who had better access to birth control pills in the 1970s were earning 8 percent more than those who didn’t by the time they reached age 50.

From the Atlantic Wire:

“The trio of researchers from the Universities of Michigan and Virginia found in a study from last December that women aged 18 to 21 who lived in states with better legal access to oral contraceptives in 1970 had hourly wages that were 8 percent higher than peers in less pill-friendly states by the time they reached their late forties….”

“In short, women on the pill are better able to get degrees, choose their occupation, and enter (and leave) the workforce when they want, which in turn gives them better footing with men in terms of commanding wages. “Our estimates imply that the pill can account for 10 percent of the convergence [of] the gender gap in the 1980s and 30 percent in the 1990s,” write the researchers. At 80 cents to each $1 a man earns in 2009, that gender wage gap is hardly closed, which is why this statistic (like others) has reentered the contraception troll-fest debate, with The New York Times calling back to it today.”

Now the question for me is: Were the states where the pill was available, more progressive and had more opportunity for women to work and earn money than the states where the pill wasn’t widely available? Is this more about progressive states and opportunities for women versus actually taking the pill and controlling births?

What do you think? Does this relationship make sense: more control of births, more control of jobs and income? Or do you think it’s more about progressive states with more opportunity for women to achieve? Is this study a good argument for birth control to be covered by insurance?

37 comments Add your comment

catlady

March 7th, 2012
6:42 am

There are so many intervening variables, but I think use of birth control in 1970 goes hand in hand with higher degree attainment. I can speak from experience on this one, although it is a sample of one. In addition, my friends who availed themselves of birth control also persisted to degree attainment. Perhaps women who planned ahead had fewer unplanned births and thus were able to finish their degrees and have higher earnings? What is cause and what is effect?

shaggy

March 7th, 2012
7:05 am

Yes, the women’s liberation movement zenith. Funny, my experience with single women, on the pill, was not one that fostered career goal attainment. It was one of much heavy breathing and debauchery. Now, maybe some of those cuties were just blowing off some…ahem, steam before finals, but it seemed to me that the majority were just horn dogs, like me, albeit female ones. I remember one whose career dream was to learn how to play better guitar, so she could front her own band (we spoke of it often; we were what is called today “friends with benefits”-our thing was washing clothes at the laundromat, and ending up…well, folding the clothes together…in private.)…didn’t happen, she ended up selling insurance and I think had 3 girls. Life takes many turns.

Before you slam me for writing that, I have been honest here about my sometimes sordid past. I was young. It was fun…a LOT of fun. We were immortal. I did end up finding the one love of my life, who I have been faithfully married to for all of these years, with no end in sight.

JATL

March 7th, 2012
7:11 am

The ability to control reproduction is KEY -in fact THE KEY in furthering women’s equality, higher education and success. It is a gigantic step forward that women have been able to take due to birth control. It is imperative that we be able to choose how many children we have (if any) and when we have them.

Jeff

March 7th, 2012
7:57 am

Shaggy, I COMLETELY understand.

Being able to control your reproductive options is an important key in cotnrolling your future. That being said, many parents out their daughters on BC because it’s the one ting they CAN control. Would parents also put their sons on BC if there were options to do so? Why do we not encourage male BC options?

And before you give the standard “men don’t bear the burden of pregnancy” quote, I’m not advocating that females stop taking BC al all. In a committed relationship, wouldn’t you want that double layer of protection, and wouldn’t you want that option for your teenage son?

Jeff

March 7th, 2012
8:31 am

Sorry for the typos.

JATL

March 7th, 2012
8:47 am

@Jeff -I would COMPLETELY put my sons on birth control if male birth control existed -when they are teens (at 3 and 5 I’m afraid it may do some harm ;-) As it is, we plan to have a Costco-sized box of condoms in their bathroom cabinet and keep the education and dialog going about using them -and what a drag teenage pregnancy and STDs are. It would make me have far less anxiety about their teen years if I could give them a pill every morning.

K's Mom

March 7th, 2012
8:48 am

JATL, well said.

JATL

March 7th, 2012
8:50 am

@shaggy -actually that is one of the points! Women can fulfill any of their sexual desires, even if that includes being wildly promiscuous, just like men always have been able to, except with birth control we’re not penalized for it by having unwanted pregnancies and children. I know I certainly enjoyed myself WHILE I was getting my higher education and afterward as I was starting my career.

Techmom

March 7th, 2012
9:05 am

I think access to BC and job equity are both bi-products of the cause, not that access to BC is the cause. I’m not a statistician so I don’t know what the cause actually is: More technological advancements allowing for less a physically demanding work force? More forward-thinking society allowing for more equality of women? Less emphasis on gender-specific roles/jobs? I just don’t see that cause and effect relationship clearly here.

Jeff – I do wish they had a male BC option. I do not understand why there isn’t (I know we’re sometimes slow in the US but there isn’t even one available in Europe)? Are condoms really the best our medical scientists can do?

shaggy

March 7th, 2012
9:45 am

JATL,

Yes, I completely understand your point and agree with it. Youth is bold, energetic, and as I wrote, at teen age, twenties, and for the most part thirties, you are very much immortal…at least in your own mind, and I do speak for myself.
I think sowing my wildness made me a much better person than I would have otherwise been, but then, I am one that does not question past paths/choices in life with regret. I understand that if I had chosen a different path, I could have chosen the path that called for me to walk in front of a bus at 22, or any other of the possible life trails. They are many, and I am here now.

I have relatives that still whine about what their mother/father did to them decades ago. They don’t realize that even the bad stuff helps to form your character, and you just have to get over a good deal of it, or forever stand still. Be your own person, live for today. That is all that you really have. Regretting and reliving the past is a dead end, and the future is always uncertain.

jarvis

March 7th, 2012
9:57 am

Yeah Theresa! You finished the blog with the correct questions.
Wouldn’t states that had easier access to birth control also be those with more industry?

Correlation vs. Causation

I’m very proud.

FCM

March 7th, 2012
10:02 am

I wrote 3 papers in college (political, sociolgoical, and historical) on birth control.

In short my findings were that The Pill was a major factor in divorce rates climbing and men being devalued.

I found this had less to do with the liberal (er “progressive”) states attitudes and more on social values/expectation changing With divorce rates above 50% the 2 family (single marriage) home that TWG enjoys is rare.

The number of single parent households grew in the 70s as well. It is more likely that women were going into the workforce and encouraging their daughters to do what they could (education among them) to get ahead rather than rely on a husband.

The way doctor/insurance relationships through much of the 70s worked was this: Patient paid doctor, patient paid pharmacy, insurance reimbursed patient not doctor. Thus it is more likely that those women who had jobs were better able to afford The Pill.

Nobody owes anyone birth control. It as been available since early man (again the research I did on my papers showesd archeolgists found evidence of condom use among early man). I cannot think of any arguement that would convince me that the government has the right to mandate the coverage. (I do also believe the drug companies have a large profit margin on The Pill). I too pay for birth control.

Bottom line: If you want to have sex, then you need to find a way to deal with the consequences, be that paying for birth control, dealing with health issues, or paying for the child that is created.

The mark up on bir

hryder

March 7th, 2012
10:27 am

The primary aspect is that planning actually occurs. Far too often, a female exclaims that she had no idea that preganancy would occur when having sex whenever the desire arose. This resulted in her than attempting to finish preparation for the life she thought she would have, rather than finishing the preparation and than having a family. Vote out all elected incumbent office holders in November.

[...] Read at nytimes.com [...]

MomsRule

March 7th, 2012
11:21 am

Is birth control no longer covered by insurance? It has been 13 plus years since I was on the pill and my insurance always covered my pills.

Mike Hunt

March 7th, 2012
11:25 am

I know a good form of birth control…stop paying welfare to people who keep having kids they cannot afford. Same with the military….they get more money per kid they have and I know women in the military having multple kids with multiple dads getting more money each time. Kids were awful too.

FCM

March 7th, 2012
11:43 am

Actually the last time I got birth control I think I did pay just my co-pay for it. It has been awhile (yes I am sure there will be pleanty of comments).

Also many pills are now in generic. The mark up is still up high. If your plan covers it great, if not lobby your HR or change personal carriers to get it covered.

I am very much pro-choice but never understood why my choice (or yours) meant other people should have to help pay for it.

Mike Hunt

March 7th, 2012
11:52 am

How about if your plan does not cover it you find another employer or just chalk it up to one of the negatives of the job.

APS

March 7th, 2012
11:56 am

Not all insurance companies covered Birth control pills. I remember that if I wanted the pills I paid for it, no co-pay plus I was paying insurance. What has been mandated/propose is that all insurance cover birth control. Not that the tax payer pays for it and not that you have to take it. It also states that churches that offer insurance to employees are exepmt. No one is forcing anyone to use birth control- be it pills, iue, the rings are condoms.

Techmom

March 7th, 2012
1:02 pm

What’s the big stink about the cost of BC? If you get the generic the cost is about $20-30 per month… cheaper than a box of diapers!

Techmom

March 7th, 2012
1:06 pm

Of course I think insurance should pay for BC considering they’ll pay for you to birth a baby which costs thousands of dollars and then cover said child. Financially it doesn’t make sense not to cover it. That being said, I don’t think the excuse “my insurance won’t cover it” is a good excuse for women not to use BC.

Soccer Milf

March 7th, 2012
1:09 pm

Why should insurance companies be FORCED to do anything? Shouldnt the market decide what they cover and dont instead of Obama?

K's Mom

March 7th, 2012
1:47 pm

Birth control is covered at the whim of an employer. I have said this so many time to so many people, my head is about to explode. We contribute $500/month for our insurance and I have always contributed around 50% toward my health coverage. I have severe endometriosis and PCOS. BCPs are the treatments for these conditions to prevent surgery (often) which costs between $20K-$30K a pop plus missed time from work. My healthcare is supposed to cover preventive care at 100% and if I had heart disease, my beta blockers would be covered at 100%. But because my condition is female in nature, I have to shell out $40-$65/month for the brand of pills my physician wants me to take and she does not recommend the generic version for my preventive care. It costs the insurance company far less to cover my preventive care than it does for them to pay for costly surgery. When I have to have costly surgery it goes into the statistics of the plan and raises rates. So yes, I believe that the health insurance which I help to fund should be mandated to cover my preventive care just like it does insulin, beta blockers, statins etc. I do not believe that the government should pay, but the helth plan should. I also believe that if an organization wants to be exempt from this type of fiscally conservative mandate, they should be willing to cover 100% of the healthcare premium for their employees.

K's Mom

March 7th, 2012
2:01 pm

And I also have to ask why the same people who are up in arms over this do not get bent out of shape that the State of GA mandated that we have car and home insurance….is that not the same level of intrusiveness and regulation? Sorry to hijack the post, but I am so sick of self righteous zealots not looking at this issue outside of women having sex when it is much more complex than simple birth control for many people. Without oral contraceptives I would not have one beautiful child and another on the way.

homeschooler

March 7th, 2012
2:38 pm

And as I said before, K’s Mom the fight should then be about birth control being classified differently for some. The government should not be able to DEMAND that ins. companies cover anything, That should be between the company and the consumer. I now realize that some insurance does not cover BC at all. Everyone I knew always had it covered in part.
I was on the pill for 20 yrs. Got it from the health dept for a year in high school (free) then at Planned Parenthood thru college (10 dollars a month). Once I started working I paid 25 dollar per month co-pay. When I was not on the pill and we didn’t want to get pregnant we counted days. (for 3 yrs) Guess what..i’ve been having sex several times a week with the same man for twenty-five years. We only had completely unprotected sex twice (on purpose) and I got pregant both times. There is no excuse for a woman getting pregant who does not want to. The options to protect pregnacy are countless.
btw..home insurance is only mandated if you owe money on your home. That’s because YOU don’t actually own your home. (maybe I’m wrong but no one came knocking on my door when I let mine lapse for a month last year- don’t tell my husband).
car insurance is mandated to protect the person you hit. If you do not owe money on your car, you do not have to have it covered. The law only mandates you have liability coverage.
I might sound self righteous but those of us who have worked hard and make all the “right” decisions get tired of everyone else reaping all the rewards with non of the sacrifice.

Frankly I don’t care if insurance companies decide that it is cheaper to provide BC to women for free than to pray for X-number of pregnancies. If THEY decide, great. But the government should stay out of it and quit driving my premiums up.

In terms of the actual questions Theresa asked.. This was a whole different issue in the 70’s than it is today. Also, smarter women took birth control and smarter women got better paying jobs. One did not necessarily have to do with the other.

homeschooler

March 7th, 2012
2:40 pm

*pay for x-number of pregnancies

K's mom

March 7th, 2012
2:59 pm

The thing is what is driving premiums up is that Americans are fat, lazy and aging. Insurance companies started the trend of covering preventive care at 100% several years ago hoping that if Jo Heart Disease got his meds covered at 100% that his annual healthcare costs would go down. The Obama Administration (which I have no love for, nor will I vote for in November) followed the insurance industry’s lead, not the other way around. If your premiums have gone up I would take a look around and see how old your coworkers are, how fat they are, do they overuse the ER and I would start asking your HR department to look into disease management programs and wellness programs to educate consumers on their lifestyle and try to change behavior instead of railing against women who want the same benefit for the money they pay for their preventive care.

And as for car insurance, yes it protects the other person who gets hit, just like covering preventive care (all preventive care) at 100% protects the other consumers on a health plan by incenting the participant to be an advocate of their own healthcare and not have to take advantage of the costly reactive treatments. It really is the same thing….

K's mom

March 7th, 2012
3:05 pm

And believe me, I have worked hard for 15 years post college and will be doing so for 30-40 more. But those of us without coverage for something that is medically necessary that we had no control over getting would like to see fair treatment when Jo Heart Attack and Alice Type 2 Diabetes get their meds free even though they have never worked out and eat lousy food every day.

jarvis

March 7th, 2012
3:35 pm

Birth control pills won’t drive up premiums. That is patently false.
Children are exceedingly more expensive to a health insurance company than are pills.

Don’t get me wrong….I don’t agree with mandating that anything be covered. I was just pointing out the obvious fact on driving up cost.

jarvis

March 7th, 2012
3:39 pm

Also, K’s mom….homeowners insurance isn’t required by law. Your lender requires it usually if you have a mortgage. That is to protet their asset.

As for car insurance, the law isn’t that you insure your property. The law is that you carry insurance in the case that you do damage to someone else’s property. Not to mention, no one makes you own a car to begin with.

K's Mom

March 7th, 2012
3:54 pm

The state of GA does mandate home insurance if there is a mortgage on the home…it is not just a bank requirement. Your car argument parallels the health insurance argument re: preventive care and like it or not that includes BCPs. Yes, you get car insurance to protect yourself should you injure someone else’s person or property. No one sets out to have an accident, but they are an unintended consequence of driving so the state we live in mandates that we all carry insurance. How is that different than the government require health insurers to cover preventive care at 100%. Getting sick is an unintended consequence of living, but costs can be cut if preventive medicine is available and accessed and that has been proven in healthcare insurance populations time and again.

If the argument were over insulin, beta blockers or statins everyone would be up in arms that the sick and elderly were being discriminated against, but because one of the indications of oral contraceptives is birth control then women just need to pony up the copay. It is a double standard and it sickens me.

FCM

March 7th, 2012
4:17 pm

@ Ks Mom I will grant you that getting pregnant can be an unintended result of having sex. However, typically that is a risk taken between only yourself and one other person at a given time (or maybe not but then if you are in a group, birth control may be the least of your worries).

Getting behind the car puts you and COUNTLESS others at risk.

If you are insured, then when the car accident occurs your premium goes up, your out of pocket is the deductible but insurance works it out for the other driver. If you have health insurance and get pregnant, you pay your portion of the hospital cost and assuming you keep the baby your premimum could go up, insurance will pay their portion of your prenatal, hospital and post natal care.

If BC is at the “whim” of your employer draw up something doing a cost analysis and show them it would be worthwhile to get BC covered.

K's Mom

March 7th, 2012
5:12 pm

I get what you are saying, but I am talking about all preventive care in relation to car insurance, not just BCPs. Every person that is in your healthcare population and their unhealthy behaviors (smoking, poor diet, no exercise) puts you at risk for higher premiums. Unintended pregnancy is only a small piece of the puzzle. And believe me, I have outlined the costs of my surgeries for past employers and how BCPs cut those costs to no avail. I am now self employed and on my husband’s insurance and it is the first plan where I pay less than $40/month for preventive care. Again, I have no expectation of the gov’t providing me free healthcare of any kind, but if I am contributing the same amount to my healthcare as Jo Heart Attack and he gets insulin, statins and beta blockers for free because of his bad behavior then why should I not enjoy the same benefit that I am paying for….that is what I do not get.

homeschooler

March 7th, 2012
6:09 pm

I get what you’re saying, too. Anyone with a chronic medical problem should expect that their medication is covered, at least in part. I do know that there are a lot of people with high blood pressure, diabetes etc.. who pay very high amounts for their Rx’s. Never having had a chronic problem, I have never experienced this. I’m sure it’s worse if your medication is considered “unnecessary”. Yours is a unique (if not uncommon) situation which, I’m sure makes it much more frustrating for you.

I do believe that, if left alone and unregulated, issuance companies would have to be competitive and provide for their customers needs.

I will say that my deductible for BCP’s recently went up to 50.00 per month. I jokingly told the pharmacist that a baby would be cheaper than that. Because I was finished having kids I paid a 35.00 copay and had an in office sterilization procedure. Best thing I ever did.

K's Mom

March 7th, 2012
6:35 pm

The thing is my predicament is not uncommon, I am just one of the few that has done the math and worked for a healthcare company and seen the data that backs up what I am saying. I will be having a complete hysterectomy before the end of the year to finally alleviate all of my symptoms. My arggument is not for an entitlement, but simply give me the same preventive coverage that others are getting for the same premium and save me money that I can spend on something else and lower the overall medical cost of the employee population I am a part of… That is the fiscal conservatism that the zealots cannot see.

Kat

March 7th, 2012
8:23 pm

I think women who earned more money could afford birth control, not that the Pill takers earned more money.

jarvis

March 8th, 2012
11:28 am

Just checking back in. Don’t want to get in a pissing contest about something so insignificant, but you are not right about the state mandate of homeowners insurance.

You’ll need to find that law for me, and email me a link. I know that was not the case when I last bought a home in 2007.