In 1992 when then candidate Bill Clinton uttered those famous words–”It’s the economy, stupid,” no one thought to include the costs of our so-called social values in the equation. Yet, as the nation tries to rise up out of a deep recession, we find ourselves tying everything to the economy. It’s no secret that once the GOP stopped winning the rhetorical war with taxes and the deficit that they turned to socially-conservative politics.
…socially conservative politics that catch women in the cross hairs to be exact.
But what if I told you that if you put aside any kind of social policy for a moment, allowing women to have reproductive freedom was a good financial policy? Would that blow your mind?
That’s exactly what is starting to come out in studies across the land.
In last week’s Friday Fertility Wars Roundup, I mentioned a study that found that access to the birth control pill was linked to higher salaries for women. That particular study took place over many years and compared women’s salaries in areas where there was no age restriction on the pill with areas where there was an 18 and up rule versus a 21 and up rule. The results were clear:
Using data from a longitudinal study of women, Bailey and her colleagues found that there was a crucial difference for women who lived in states where women could get the pill without parental permission at age 18, and states where the age was 21.
The study further found that the investment in education was greater where access to the pill was more widely spread:
The result, Bailey and her colleagues report in a National Bureau of Economic Research working paper due to be published in July in the American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, was that women in early-access states saw a decline in their wages in their 20s as they invested in their education. By the 1980s and 1990s, though, those same women were making 8 percent more each year than their counterparts who hadn’t had access to the pill so early.
Of the one-third bump in wages attributable to early access to the pill, two-thirds of that came from these women having greater workplace experience, the study found. The rest came from women gaining more education and from choosing more lucrative, traditionally male, fields.
In fact, the study may have underestimated the positive effect of the pill given that they did not study women further into their 20s.
That alone would signal triumph. But there was even more positive economic news to be found when women’s reproductive rights were in their own hands. It turns out that contraceptive coverage–the great waste of money, according to the GOP–actually lowers taxes. Failing to provide access to reproductive choices such as contraception and abortion has the effect of costing taxpayers in the end. This is not only due to not having to pay for healthcare and education for children of unintended and unwanted pregnancies, but it also results in higher earnings for women.
So the next time a social conservative tells you she or he opposes reproductive rights and access for women (AND men), tell them that they’re being a bit contrarian. How can you be fiscally conservative when you advance policies that would directly effect the bottom line in such a negative way?
The answer probably won’t surprise you…they never thought about it that way. And that’s one reason why 2012 won’t be the return of the GOP. You can’t attack half the population and still win an election.