Vox reports a “huge public health success story” — the continuing decline in the teen birth rate.
How to explain it? Many theories.
Here is a Vox summary of top theories:
* Teenagers are increasingly using the best types of birth control. Separate federal data shows that more and more teens are using long-acting reversible contraceptives like implants and intrauterine devices (IUDs). These types of birth control have very low failure rates.
* Teenagers today are much less exposed to lead than they were in prior decades. For decades now, researchers have documented a dangerous relationship between a child’s early exposure to lead and his or her cognitive development. Research led by economist Rick Nevin argues that the decline in teen births dovetails quite closely with declines in children’s blood lead level rates.
* Teenagers are … watching a lot of Teen Mom? Yes, the MTV show. One 2011 paper estimated it and 16 and Pregnant (which show a realistic depiction of the difficulties of teen parenting) are responsible for a 5.7 percentage point drop in the teen birthrate between June 2009 and December 2010 — one-third of the total decline during that 18-month time period.
My soap box: One of the many very important services provided by Planned Parenthood is birth control, particularly the highly effective long-acting contraceptives that are more reliable than pills that can be forgotten and other methods. When women don’t have unwanted pregnancies, they are less likely to seek abortions. But Gov. Asa Hutchinson and many other politicians in Arkansas are working to put Planned Parenthood out of business. There is a high resistance to contraceptive services among many Republican politicians, not just abortion. Contraception — not abortion — is at the root of religious challenges to the Obamacare mandate of coverage for birth control.
This is particularly important in Arkansas, where the teen birth rate and unintended pregnancy rate are far above the national averages.