Access to Birth Control Allows More Girls To Finish High School


In 2009, Colorado the public health department has launched an initiative that has helped family planning clinics expand access to low-cost or low-cost contraceptives and reproductive health care. In 2016, the birth of the state fell 54 percent for women aged 15 to 19, and the abortion rate fell 63 percent between the same age group.

“We were shocked by the reduction in abortion and involuntary pregnancy rates, but I’m glad it had that effect,” says Angela Fellers LeMire, interim program manager of the Colorado Family Planning Program, which oversaw the initiative. . “Everyone in the field and in the state health department feels good about the work we do.”

Now, a study published in May Advanced Science shows that the Colorado Family Planning Initiative (CFPI) has had one more benefit: More young women are graduating from high school. Researchers from the campuses of the University of Colorado at Boulder and Denver, in collaboration with those from the U.S. Census Bureau, conducted the study.

Using the state American Community Study and other census data from 2009 to 2017, the authors compared graduation rates in Colorado before and after the state adopted the family planning program with those of 17 other states without such policies. The researchers estimated that the program reduced the percentage of Colorado women between the ages of 20 and 22 without a high school diploma by 14 percent. It has resulted, they estimated, in an additional 3,800 women born between 1994 and 1996 who have graduated from high school in the first twenty years.

“As someone who studies the subject, I was surprised. I don’t expect to see such a big effect, ”says study lead author Amanda Stevenson, assistant professor of sociology at the University of Colorado Boulder.


For decades, the link between access to birth control and educational or other successes has been anecdotal. Part of the foundation of family planning programs, including the federal Title X program–Which provides reproductive health services, including birth control, for low-income and uninsured residents – is that fertility control offers other potential socioeconomic benefits, such as the ability for people to fulfill their needs. education. The new study, says Emily Johnston, senior research associate at the Urban Institute, which conducts research in economic and social policy, is “addressing a question that the field has long been interested in: What are the impacts, beyond fertility, on people’s lives? ”

“So far, evidence regarding the effects of contraception on women’s education and opportunities comes from the 1960s and 1970s, but much has changed since then,” wrote Martha Bailey, professor of economics. at the University of California, Los Angeles, WIRED in an email. “This document shows that access to contraception can also help women take advantage of opportunities and increase their prospects in the labor market.”

To assess whether access to birth control – as opposed to other variables such as access to abortion or adoption services, quality of schooling, fertility rates, or attendance at school programs for pregnant women – was the key to contributing to the increase in graduation rates, the authors compared the changes observed in Colorado with that set of 17 other states. (The states of comparison were Arizona, California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, New Hampshire, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, and Rhode Island.) general high school graduation rates and state policies, such as expanded Medicaid insurance coverage. “Anything is possible, but we haven’t found any state policy changes that have influenced these factors,” Stevenson says.

Another factor that could have influenced pregnancies and high school graduation rates would have been whether adolescents had become less sexually active. But, says Johnston, it is unlikely that Colorado will be unique. “I should have reason to believe that sexual activity changed in ways that were different for different states,” he says.

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