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Does Contraception Change the Game? Bachelors, Bachelorettes, and the New Battle of the Sexes

Catherine Pakaluk, Ph.D., Ave Maria University

In The Paradox of Declining Female Happiness, Stevenson and Wolfers (2007) document a new “gender gap” between the sexes, in which women today generally report lower subjective well-being relative to men. Building on research in both sociology and demographics, Catherine Pakaluk explores the role of contraception in a basic game of strategy between men and women where players have different tastes for sex and children.

The model suggests that men may have benefitted from contraceptive improvements, such as the Pill, more than women—and asks whether the Pill might have played a role in the new gender gap. The model also raises the question of whether other forms of family planning might better equalize the relative positions of men and women in sexual partnerships. These results have particular relevance for feminist critiques of the sexual revolution. Throughout the presentation, the language of economic modeling is qualified in terms of its advantages and limitations for describing human behavior.

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