Monday, June 08, 2009

All Classes Want the Same Number of Kids

Paula England reported at the Furstenberg Conference on her new study of class differences in having children. She found that girls from all classes want the same number of children - on average, a little over two. However, by 16 there is already a negative correlation between sexual activity and income/GPA. That is, the poorer girls, who are also likely to be the girls doing worse in school, have sex more often than the richer girls, who are also doing better in school and are on the college track.

Eventually, the dropout girls have four times the unintended pregnancies that the college-track girls do. It is not that unintended pregnancies derail some girls from the college track - the causation runs the other way. Girls who start out poorer are likely to be "sloppy and inconsistent" in using birth control, whereas the middle class, college-track girls are not. Moreover, England reported, this class gradient in birth control goes back at least to the 1920s.

1 comment:

paul said...

The Depo shot should be freely offered and administered at high schools in impoverished areas.

I also think it would be a good idea to offer the Depo shot at social aid offices where folks in poverty already have to come on a regular basis to re-enroll for their benefits. Contrary to the "have another baby so I can get another check" stereotype, most women who are on government assistance (like TANF or food stamps) realize how much it costs to have a child, both monetarily and otherwise, and do not want more. Give them the option to have three months of birth control (or more depending on what variety of one-time-administered contraceptive is offered) and most women receiving assistance would jump at the chance. I used to half-jokingly say that this should be mandatory for anyone receiving assistance, but in reality it wouldn't need to be mandatory, just free and readily available and I bet the majority of the target audience would not just passively accept it, but would request it.

Making an appointment at a clinic, keeping that appointment, having the money to pay for a prescription (most clinics are sliding scale which does not necessarily mean birth control is free), then consistently keeping a dosing schedule and avoiding negative interactions (like antibiotics, which is how my wife became pregnant while taking the pill) is very difficult for those who are in poverty. Make it easier to get and use correctly and you'll eliminate a lot of unwanted pregnancies which is one of the key factors that get and keep young women in poverty.

I think this is a good centrist solution. It helps young women stay out of poverty and the cost of birth control is FAR outweighed by the savings in Medicaid, food stamps, TANF, and all the other social spending that comes along with children in poverty. You could even make an argument that it would reduce the number of abortions to help Catholics get over the aversion to birth control (not that American Catholics aren't really over it any way for the most part).