Sex and the Single Girl: The Role of Culture in Contraception Demand

Kelly Ragan, Stockholm School of Economics

Historical out-of-wedlock fertility is shown to affect demand for the birth control pill after its introduction in Sweden. A model of premarital sex is developed where social sanctions play a prominent role. The model has implications for how social forces influence unwed birth and demand for new contraceptive technologies. Using unique data on contraceptive sales we find that communities with higher out-of-wedlock birth rates at the turn of the century have higher demand for the pill six decades later. The strong positive relationship between pill demand and historical illegitimacy is robust to controlling for contemporaneous economic, demographic, and epidemiological factors. We find evidence that variation from the turn of the century, not contemporary differences in illegitimacy, drive our results. Instrumented regressions affirm that the relationship is causal. Results are robust to alternative empirical models that identify the effect of historical illegitimacy on pill demand from long run changes in behavior.

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Presented in Poster Session 2