CU-Boulder study: CFPI led to increase in high school graduation rates

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A woman holds a packet of contraceptive pills. (AP Photo/Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi)

BOULDER, Colo. (KDVR) — A study out of the University of Colorado-Boulder has found a link between increased access to birth control and increased high school graduation rates after researchers studied the impacts of the Colorado Family Planning Initiative.

The initiative that began in 2009 was funded by a $27 million private donation and sent money to clinics that were supported by the Title X federal family planning grant. The money was used to increase access to various forms of birth control from 2009 to 2015.

“Even though it stands to reason that access to contraception would improve all sorts of things in women’s lives,” said lead author and Assistant Professor of Sociology Amanda Stevenson. “We haven’t had the evidence to substantiate that claim for two reasons – we haven’t had a lot of variation in access to family planning services that wasn’t due to individual level of advantage. So we haven’t had big changes in family planning policy until around the time of CFPI.”

“The other reason though is that we in the United States don’t have good individual longitudinal data with which to assess the policies long term,” said Stevenson.

After studying the program’s impact, researchers found and additional 3,800 women received a high school diploma by the age of 22 as a direct result of the CFPI. They also identified a 2% increase in overall graduation rates in Colorado and a 5% increase among Hispanic women.

“Given the relatively small effect that teen fertility appears to have on high school graduation, I would not have expected to see much of an effect of access to contraception on high school graduation,” Stevenson said.

Stevenson says she hopes policy makers and influencers take this data into account as they make future decisions in regard to providing funding for contraceptive methods for women.

“I hope that people that are arguing about these policies understand the investments in family planning service delivery yield benefits to women in the course of their lives,” Stevenson said. “I also hope that people stop arguing for family planning on the basis of these problematic weak sources of argument and evidence that have sort of dominated up until now – I think it undermines their roles.”

Researchers hope to look at what kind of an impact that programs like the CFPI have on college plans, income levels and the overall chances of avoiding poverty in the future.

 The results from the study were recently published in a journal that was published by the American Association for the Advancement of Sciences.

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