The Impact of Subsidized Birth Control for College Women: Evidence from the Deficit Reduction Act

Emily Collins, University of Michigan
Brad Hershbein, University of Michigan

This paper uses a unique natural experiment to investigate the sensitivity of American college women’s contraceptive choice to the price of oral birth control and the importance of its use on educational and health outcomes. The Deficit Reduction Act of 2005 inadvertently and unexpectedly increased the effective price of birth control pills at college health centers more than three-fold. Using quasi-difference-in-difference and fixed-effects methodologies, we find that this policy change reduced Pill use by at least 1.7 percentage points, or 4 percent, among college women. For college women who lacked health insurance or carried large credit card balances, the decline was two to three times as large. We find little evidence of substitution toward condoms or other traditional methods of birth control. We find small but significant decreases in STIs and the number of sex partners, suggesting that affected women may be substituting away from sexual behavior in general.

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Presented in Session 63: Economics of Fertility