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The University of Southampton
EconomicsPart of Economic, Social and Political Science

1304 Can Technological Change Account For The Sexual Revolution? (J. Kennes & J. Knowles)

Paper number 1304

Authors: John Kennes (University of Aarhus, Denmark)  and John Knowles (University of Southampton, UK)


By reducing the risk of unwanted parenthood, more effective contraception reduces the cost of sex outside of marriage, increasing the value of single life. Could this explain why marriage and birth rates declined in the U.S. after 1970?. We illustrate our hypothesis with a one-period example. We then extend the analysis to allow for repeated matching over many periods, modeling the shotgun-marriage, contraception-method and abortion margins. We use US survey data on contraception, sexual activity and family dynamics to calibrate the model for the 1970s, and then compute the effects of liberalizing access to contraception and abortion. The results suggest the hypothesis can explain 60% of the behavioral shifts associated with the sexual revolution.

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