Theses Doctoral

Essays in Gender Economics

Low, Corinne

This dissertation examines women's choices regarding reproduction, sexual activity, and marriage in an economic framework. The first two chapters address the impact of the "biological clock" on women's marriage market outcomes, and thus its implications for career decisions.
Women's ability to have children declines sharply with age. This fecundity loss may negatively affect marital prospects for women who delay marriage to make career investments. In chapter 1, I incorporate depreciating "reproductive capital" into a frictionless matching model of the marriage market, where high-skilled women are likely to make pre-marital career investments. When the fertility costs of these investments are large relative to the income gains, the model predicts non-assortative matching at the top of the income distribution, with the highest-earning men forgoing the highest-earning women in favor of poorer, but younger, partners. However, if women's incomes rise or desired family size falls, high-skilled women may be able to compensate their partners for lower fertility, leading to assortative matching. Historical patterns in US Census data are consistent with these predictions. In the 1920-1950 birth cohorts, women with post-bachelors education match with lower-income spouses than women with only college degrees, while in recent years this pattern has reversed.
The model relies on men internalizing their partners' expected fertility when choosing a mate. In chapter 2, I test this premise using an online experiment where age is randomly assigned to dating profiles, to control for other factors (such as beauty) that change with age in observational data. I find that men, in contrast to women, have a strong preference for younger partners, but only when they have no children of their own and are aware of the age-fertility tradeoff.
Chapter 3 addresses another decision, protecting against unintended pregnancy, in the context of the introduction of a new technology that can prevent pregnancy after intercourse. Emergency contraception (EC) can prevent pregnancy after sex, but only if taken within 72 hours of intercourse. Over the past 15 years, access to EC has been expanded at both the state and federal level. We find that expanded access to EC has had no statistically significant effect on birth or abortion rates. Expansions of access, however, have changed the venue in which the drug is obtained, shifting its provision from hospital emergency departments to pharmacies. We find evidence that this shift may have led to a decrease in reports of sexual assault.



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More About This Work

Academic Units
Thesis Advisors
Chiappori, Pierre A.
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
July 7, 2014