Humans have sex. A potential consequence of sex is pregnancy. When pregnancy is unwanted, people come up with all sorts of ways to prevent unwanted pregnancies. Crocodile dung in Ancient Egypt. Half a lemon as a cervical cap.
The birth control pill is one of those many pregnancy-prevention systems developed over the years. One of the things that stands out about the Pill is its effectiveness at preventing unwanted pregnancies. The Pill has a 6% failure rate under typical use, versus an 18% failure rate for condoms. The sponge and the diaphragm have a similar failure rate. When the Pill is used optimally, the failure rate is even lower.
What was most interesting about this show was how they talked about the profound social and economic effects the Pill had on society, especially for women. First, for married women; and then, for young, unmarried women.
The Most Popular Form of Contraception
The Pill was first approved in 1960, but it was in the 1970’s that its availability expanded. I came of age about the same time birth control became “the most popular form of contraception for 18 and 19-year-old women in the United States.” And this is when the economic impact started to be felt.
As I embarked on my own educational and career pursuits, I had no appreciation for the dramatic change the birth control pill was generating for women. It produced a shift that gave women much more control over their reproductive futures. With that control, they had the ability to delay child bearing, invest in their education, and embark on careers. They had opportunities to become financially independent.
This podcast gives a succinct, clear and enlightening overview of the impact of the Pill on women and society; on the benefits delivered. It’s stuff I never knew. And it’s stuff that can so easily be taken for granted.
I love how this podcast, in nine or ten minutes, shines light on stuff many of us don’t even know we don’t see.
- Podcast: 50 Things that Made the Modern Economy
- Episode: Contraceptive Pill
- Host: Tim Harford [3/9/18 corrected: had listed as “Hartford”]
- Date: 4/9/17
- Duration: 9 Minutes