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"Momma's Got the Pill": How Anthony Comstock and Griswold v. Connecticut Shaped U.S. Childbearing

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Abstract

The 1960s ushered in a new era in U.S. demographic history characterized by significantly lower fertility rates and smaller family sizes. What catalyzed these changes remains a matter of considerable debate. This paper exploits idiosyncratic variation in the language of “Comstock” statutes, enacted in the late 1800s, to quantify the role of the birth control pill in this transition. Almost fifty years after the contraceptive pill appeared on the U.S. market, this analysis provides new evidence that it accelerated the post-1960 decline in marital fertility.

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