This blog is intended to go along with Population: An Introduction to Concepts and Issues, by John R. Weeks, published by Cengage Learning. The latest edition is the 13th (it will be out in January 2020), but this blog is meant to complement any edition of the book by showing the way in which demographic issues are regularly in the news.

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Monday, July 6, 2015

Guess What? Contraception Keeps Teens From Getting Pregnant

Thanks to Shoshana Grossbard for pointing me to a story in the NYTimes about the success of a program in Colorado to give teenagers long-lasting contraceptives. Young women jumped at the chance for free and confidentially provided contraception and the teen birth rate and abortion rate plunged in almost textbook fashion.
Over the past six years, Colorado has conducted one of the largest experiments with long-acting birth control. If teenagers and poor women were offered free intrauterine devices and implants that prevent pregnancy for years, state officials asked, would those women choose them?
They did in a big way, and the results were startling. The birthrate among teenagers across the state plunged by 40 percent from 2009 to 2013, while their rate of abortions fell by 42 percent, according to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. There was a similar decline in births for another group particularly vulnerable to unplanned pregnancies: unmarried women under 25 who have not finished high school.
The problem, though, is that the program was funded not by the state, but rather by a grant from the Susan Thompson Buffett Foundation, named for the billionaire investor Warren Buffett’s late wife. That money is about to come to an end, but the state legislature has very shortsightedly chosen not to fund it. Sadly, we still live in an age where too many people think that teenagers should just say "no" and if they don't, they must live with the consequences. That's not good for anybody. The article quotes Isabel Sawhill, an economist at the Brookings Institution.
“If we want to reduce poverty, one of the simplest, fastest and cheapest things we could do would be to make sure that as few people as possible become parents before they actually want to,” said She argues in her 2014 book, “Generation Unbound: Drifting Into Sex and Parenthood Without Marriage,” that single parenthood is a principal driver of inequality and long-acting birth control is a powerful tool to prevent it.
I bought her book when it came out last year and I highly recommend it. History teaches that many teenagers will drift into sex unless there is a lot more supervision than most parents are willing or able to generate. But that shouldn't mean that they have to have their lives derailed by an unintended pregnancy. We are all better off with programs like the one in Colorado and state legislators everywhere need to step up to the challenge of making sure that they exist.

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