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The Pill and Partnerships: The impact of the birth control pill on cohabitation

By Finn Christensen


This paper investigates the impact on cohabitation behavior of the introduction and dispersion of the birth control pill in the US during the 1960s and early 1970s. A theoretical model generates several predictions that are tested using the first wave of the National Survey of Families and Households. Empirically, the causal effect is identified by exploiting plausibly exogenous variation in state laws granting access to the pill to unmarried women under age 21. The evidence shows that the pill was a catalyst that increased cohabitation's role in selecting marriage partners, but did little in the short run to promote cohabitation as a substitute for marriage.Early legal access to the pill, cohabitation, marriage trends

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