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Liberalization of Birth Control and the Unmarried Share of Births

With John Kennes


Half of unmarried births are to women who are already mothers, and a quarter to women who were previously married. We develop a model of equilibrium matching and fertility to replicate these facts. We use the model to revisit the hypothesis that liberalization of the Pill and abortion caused the massive increase since 1960 in the share of US births to unmarried women. Our results suggest that liberalization alone is ineffective; what matters are interactions between liberalization and the decline in the stability of marriage, and, secondarily, the rising status of single mothers.

Former Title: Do Marital Prospects Dissuade Unmarried Fertility?