Wednesday, January 05, 2005

2.1 Kids Just Too Many!

The Washington Post had an alarming article reporting that the percentage of women that hasn't used birth control in the past 3 months has risen from 5.2 percent in 1995 to 7.4 percent in 2002. The article wasn't alarming in its content but in its tone. Though they claim that teenage use of contraceptives has gone up, disturbingly something they applaud, this increase is in adult women, especially over 30.

My first thought was that people must be wanting to have more children. While this option was mentioned, the experts quoted in the article had many more negative reasons topping their list.

Physicians, statisticians and advocates who specialize in reproductive health had several theories for the rise in unprotected sex. They pointed to possible factors such as gaps in sex education, the cost of birth control, declining insurance coverage, fears of possible side effects of contraceptives and personal attitudes about childbearing.

With all of the hand wringing as to why people aren't using contraception as much, from the evil insurance companies not paying their "fair share" to the evils of abstinence programs (if it's the fault of the abstinence programs, then why is the problem only in adult women?), the real root of their concern comes out.

Family planning is a "fiscally conservative policy," countered Jensen of the Women's Health Research Unit. For every $1 spent on contraceptive services, he said, $3 is saved in other government programs such as Medicaid, the State Children's Health Insurance Program, welfare and education.

They just don't want any more people born so they don't have to pay for the poor among them and to educate them. These are people who think it's irresponsible to have any children. To them, a change in the personal attitude toward child bearing is just as bad a reason not to use birth control as mis-education and insurance companies not footing the bill. If these people were truly concerned about the money supporting people in these programs, perhaps they should put more energy towards preventing the illegal immigration that sap our government programs instead of a drop of 2% in birth control use.

I'm not even convinced there really is an issue. This article is based on 2 studies 10 years apart. Studies like these are just snapshots. It'd be much more useful to see the birth control use percentage for every 3 month period from 1995 to now and try and identify a trend. After all, 2 points might define a line but they definitely can't determine a trend. There are many factors that can affect birthrates in the short term. The Population Reference Bureau identified these examples:

Short-term fluctuations in birth and death rates that produce unusual bites or bulges in population pyramids, such as the baby boom, often can be traced to such historical events as wars, epidemics, economic booms, or depressions. The decline in the birth rate during the Great Depression caused a small bite in the U.S. pyramid for the group born between 1930 and 1934. World Wars I and II caused a deficit of older men in Germany. The impact of these events emphasizes the interrelationships among population change and economic, social, political, and health factors.

(Also see this article on the trends of populations as affected by birth rates, death rates, and immigration.)

To me this appears nothing more than alarmist junk science to push several causes and to obtain more funding for their pet projects. Until I see more and better information, I'm not impressed.