Use of Oral Contraception in the United States, 1965

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Science  09 Sep 1966:
Vol. 153, Issue 3741, pp. 1199-1205
DOI: 10.1126/science.153.3741.1199


This is the first report from the Na-tional Fertility Study, 1965, a survey of the reproductive behavior of a national sample of married women, under the age of 55, living with their husbands. The report presents basic data on the use of oral contraception by women under the age of 45, in relation to age, parity, education, race, and religion. The study leads to certain conclusions, as follows. Present, past, and prospective use vary inversely with the age of the woman and directly with the number of years of schooling; the majority of young women with college training have already used the oral contraceptive. Use by Negroes is somewhat less extensive than use by whites, particularly for ages below 25; some of this difference is explainable by concomitant racial differences in educational level. Negroes seem less likely than whites to use oral contraception for timing early births, and more likely, when they do use it, to be attempting to terminate their fertility. The same observation holds for white Catholics in relation to white non-Catholics. Although the extent of use may be lower among Catholics than non-Catholics, the proportion of Catholics who report use is substantial indeed in view of the persisting theological controversy.

The prospects for increased use of oral contraception seem very good at present, but they may be limited by further developments in the technology of fertility regulation. Meanwhile the birth rate has declined substantially. Although much sophisticated analysis of other data from the survey will be required to determine the extent of the contribution of oral contraception to this decline, the findings presented here suggest that the contribution is substantial for young married couples. The major effect on the couple's eventual number of children may be less than the effect on the time pattern of childbearing; in any event, both lower eventual parity and delayed fertility contribute to a decline in the numbers of births from year to year. Whatever the intent may be, it is apparent that young American couples have adopted a new means for achieving their reproductive goals.