Reproductive Rights and the Career Plans of U.S. College Freshmen

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This paper studies the heterogeneous effects of the birth control pill and abortion rights on young people's career plans. In particular, these effects are allowed to vary by sex, race, religion, and, importantly, by level of academic ability. Using annual surveys of over two million college freshmen from 1968 to 1976, I find that the pill mainly affected high ability women, by shifting their plans toward occupations with higher wages and higher male ratios. Abortion rights, in contrast, were mainly shown to affect women in the low ability group, with their plans shifting toward careers associated with lower income and lower prestige scores. My findings also suggest that the career plans of black males were positively affected by both increased access to the pill and abortions.
Original languageEnglish
JournalLabour Economics
Pages (from-to)29-41
Number of pages13
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2016


  • Birth control pill
  • Contraception
  • Abortion
  • Career plans
  • Gender
  • Ability

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