More Teen Girls Graduate HS When They Have Birth Control Access

by Madison Vanderberg

More teen girls graduate from high school when they have affordable access to birth control, according to a new study

If I told you that women achieve more educationally when they have access to birth control, you would probably say, Yeah, no shit. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg even wrote that women’s “ability to realize their full potential…is intimately connected to ‘their ability to control their reproductive lives,’” However, this no-brainer seems obvious but unfortunately there isn’t a ton of data to prove this theory either way. However, a very recent study by the United States Census Bureau using data specifically from Colorado, proves that high school graduation rates for teen girls increased in the same time frame as the expansion of no or low cost birth control options.

This study went down in Colorado because the state had the greatest access to free or low cost birth control options.

The Colorado Family Planning Initiative (CFPI), which started in 2009, increased access to contraceptives by making every FDA-approved contraceptive method at every federally-funded Colorado family planning clinic free or low cost. This is significant because at other federally funded clinics in other states (aka Title X family-planning centers, which is basically the program wherein the government gives money to family planning clinics to they can offer birth control for free), not all forms of birth control were actually free or low cost. In some states — even at the federally-funded sites — you could get generic birth control pills for free, but an IUD — which for many women is more effective — could potentially cost more. The Colorado Family Planning Initiative was significant because no forms of birth control were off the table for low-income patients.

The new study shows that widespread low or no cost birth control access in Colorado is associated with rates of high school completion for teen girls.

Thanks to a research team from the U.S. Census Bureau and the University of Colorado, they found that since the inception of the CFPI program in Colorado in 2009, it has resulted in a “2% increase in high school graduation rates for young women and a 14% decrease in the proportion of young women in Colorado without a high school diploma.”

This effect was even greater for Hispanic women as “CFPI is estimated to have reduced the share of Hispanic women not graduating high school by 21.8% and significantly increased high school graduation rates for Hispanic women in Colorado by 2.1%.”

U.S. Census Bureau

Again, no shit. Give women control of their bodies and they have more opportunities. Or as the researchers of the piece put it more bluntly, “our findings indicate that improving access to contraception increases young women’s human capital formation.”

To be honest, it could be even easier for young women to access birth control options (hello school nurses handing out pill packs for free), but young women should certainly not have to navigate a byzantine patchwork of forms and bureaucracy and geography and money to access the contraception they need to control their destinies.