The Birth Control Pill Advanced Women's Economic Freedom

1960: Enovid is approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration as the first oral contraceptive.
Courtesy Marc St. Gil/National Archives

1960 Enovid is approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration as the first oral contraceptive.

Five years after the introduction of the pill, 41 percent of “contracepting” women had a prescription, according to The Power of the Pill, a 2002 analysis by Harvard economists Claudia Goldin and Lawrence Katz. Today, four out of every five sexually active women in the U.S. have taken oral contraceptives at some point in their lives. As birth control became widely available, women began delaying marriage and investing in their education without fear of pregnancy or commitment to abstinence, which led to higher female employment rates and better careers. As of 2011, when the U.S. Department of Labor last released data, more than half of employed women worked in skilled professions. While factors such as feminism and antisexism laws also helped, the Harvard study found that the pill has had a singularly profound effect in advancing women’s economic freedom.

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