The prevailing orthodoxy among public health officials is that the government spends more on sexual education, the less teen pregnancies. Now, however, the British researchers have found empirical evidence that appears to show exactly the opposite.
The findings, published in the Journal of Health Economics, University of Nottingham Business School Professor David Paton and Liam Wright, a research assistant at the University of Sheffield, found cuts in sex education classes have contributed to the lower rates of teenage pregnancy in England.
Paton’s study in comparison with changes in the rate of teenage pregnancy with the change in the annual funding of teenage pregnancy services for the 149 English local authorities between 2008 and 2014.
To their surprise, the researchers found that after sexual education budgets were cut, teen pregnancy rates fell by 42.6 percent.
“There are arguments to suggest that the impact [of the cuts] on teenage pregnancy may not be as bad as feared,” concluded Wright and Patom in the study.
For young people under the age of 18, the conception rate in great Britain fell by almost 50 percent between 2007 and 2015. While the United States collects data on the number of births, the United Kingdom has opinions, including those which end in abortion. They do not factor in the conceptions that end in miscarriage.
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Just as their AMERICAN cohorts, British sex education advocates attributed to the decrease of the increased government investment through the 1999 teenage pregnancy Strategy, which strengthened the financing of initiatives that expanded access to birth control and sexual education courses.
“If the programs that were cut have been successful in delaying sex, this would probably have led to pregnancy rates. Thus, our findings suggest that they are not doing that and, by implication, that the cutting of a number of these programs led to a reduction of teen sexual activity,” Paton tells Fox News.
Paton makes it clear their research does not claim that the spending cuts reduce teen pregnancies. The most important lesson for policy makers, he says, is that it is more productive to focus on the underlying causes (poverty and levels of education) of teenage pregnancy, rather than sex-prevention programs and providing minors access to birth control.
The publication of Paton’s study comes at a time when the debate over AMERICAN funding for prevention programs is heating up, after the Trump administration released its budget, which eliminates the teenage pregnancy Prevention program. That program received $101 million in government funds in the 12 months ended Sept. 30.
According to the budget justification, the Department of Health and Human Services states that the teenage pregnancy rate is strongly decreased in the last few years, but it does not appear this program is an important driver in this reduction.”
Paton’s findings have garnered little media attention, while a study co-author Dr. Julie DeCesare of the University of Florida’s OB-GYN residency program has been widely seized upon by the advocates of more money from the government for sex education.
The researchers analyzed county by county teen birth rate data and found “clusters” of cities that saw a slower pace of decline in teen pregnancies.
Three of the top-10 teen birth rate clusters were in Texas, which commentators attributed to a lack of access to sexual education and birth control.
The researchers found that after the sex education budgets were cut, teen pregnancy rates fell by 42.6 percent.
However, DeCesare said her study just the areas where the clusters were present, and not – as many journalists reported — identify a cause for the higher-than-expected birth rates. She tells Fox News the findings should prompt a discussion in society about how best to reduce teen pregnancies.
Paton says that his research is a reminder that well-intentioned programs can have the opposite effect and reflects the results of previous studies.
In a study 2013, Paton and his colleague Sourafel Girma examined the impact of the required consent of parents on pregnancy rates in Texas. After the state passed a mandate in 2003 for which the consent of the parents for government-funded contraception for minors, many predicted that it would lead to an increase in teen pregnancies. Instead, they found there was a decrease in the participation in the family planning clinics, but no increase in underage pregnancies.
Bill Albert, spokesman for the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, agrees that several factors have contributed to the historical decline of teen pregnancy in the US, but argues that comprehensive sexuality education should continue to receive federal aid.
“I think it’s reasonable to conclude that [sex education and access to birth control] has had a positive effect, and if the investments stopped, it is reasonable to assume that there is a possible negative effect,” says Albert.
In the United States, the teen birth rate reached a peak in 1991, but saw a significant decline in the subsequent years.
“My feeling is why mess with success?”, he adds.