Where did all the teen moms go?

Loved this post from last week at Vox looking at the rather dramatic, and not well-understood, decline in the teen birthrate.  Sarah Kliff systematically explores each hypothesis and the evidence in favor and against.  Now that’s good stuff, damnit, and hard to imagine many places other than Vox where you’d find analysis like this.  First, the decline and why it’s a good thing:

For five years now, America’s teen birth rate has plummeted at an unprecedented rate, falling faster and faster. Between 2007 and 2013, the number of babies born to teens annually fell by 38.4 percent, according to research firm Demographic Intelligence. This drop occurred in tandem with steep declines in the abortion rate. That suggests that the drop isn’t the product of more teenagers terminating pregnancies. More simply, fewer girls are getting pregnant…

The massive decline in teen birth rates is undeniably good news for public health advocates. Teen mothers are significantly more likely to drop out of high school. Most teen mothers do not receive financial support from their child’s father; 48 percent live below the poverty line. Avoiding early motherhood undeniably opens additional doors in a teen’s future.

But there’s something uniquely frustrating about the recent, steep decline in teen birth rates: nobody knows why it’s happened.

So, why has the teen birth rate gone down so much?  Best guess is a perfect storm of a whole bunch of factors working in concert:

We may have just gotten lucky.

It’s not an especially scientific answer, but it’s one that seems to describe how teen pregnancy researchers view the dramatic slowdown in the birth rate: a collision of lots of trends that all serendipitously happened in the late 2000s and early 2010s.

The recession, the uptick in IUD use, a hit MTV show that deglamorized teen pregnancy — each of these factors could have have caused a small decline on their own. Taken together, it’s possible they caused a much bigger change.

And if that is the case, that doesn’t portend especially well for the fast decline continuing. A few of the factors might: use of IUDs, for example, might continue to rise as the health care law eliminates co-pays for the contraceptive. Cost has often been a barrier to IUD use, as co-pays could range between $500 and $1,000.

The other particulars, however, seem less likely to forecast long-term change. The economy is recovering, and so is the birth rate among older women — it’s possible that younger women could follow. Teen Momstopped airing in 2012  (a Teen Mom 2 series still does exist) and 16 and Pregnant, which wrapped up its fifth season this year, doesn’t deliver the blockbuster ratings it used to.

Researchers are waiting for the other shoe to drop: there’s a general expectation that at some point the statistics have to turn around. “A 10 percent decline per year is not something that happens forever,” said Levine. “I don’t know that it’s necessarily a bad thing if it goes back to the 2.5 percent declines we saw before.”

Anyway, good news for teens and public health, a a great example of Vox doing truly value-added journalism.

Also, Jon Cohn builds off the piece to make the point that free birth control is a really, really good thing (sorry, curmudgeonly conservatives):

Maybe this is a good time to remind everybody why this requirement [the contraceptive mandate] matters so much to those of us who support it. Many conservatives look at the price of oral contraceptives, available at places like Target or Walmart for as little as $9 a month, and wonder why anybody except the very poor would need help paying for it. But numerous studies have shown that even modest co-payments can reduce use of medications, particularly when you’re talking about less affluent people who must be careful with every dollar they spend. That’s the whole point of making certain drugs that prevent medical conditions cost-free. It works that way for diabetes and hypertension and, yes, it works that way for pregnancy. Besides, the most effective and, for some women, the most medically appropriate forms of birth control are intrauterine devices (IUDs). Those cost $500 or even $1000 out-of-pocket. Reducing their cost can have fairly dramatic effects on their usage, if the available research is correct…

Late last week, lots of people were talking about a story by Sarah Kliff, of Vox, on why teen pregnancy has been declining in just the last few years. It’s a great article, well worth your time, but the part that jumped out at me was the much bigger decline in teen births that occurred many decades agoin the 1960s, when the teen pregnancy rate fell by about 25 percent. What changed? The big factor, as social scientists (and friends of QED) Harold Pollack and Luke Shaeferreminded me over the weekend, was birth control. The Food and Drug Administration first approved the pill in 1960.

Birth control.  Good for the users.  Good for society.  Bad for conservatives who want to control women’s sexuality.

Quick hits (part I)

1) NPR on the power of peer groups in preventing campus rape.

2) Cool optical illusion.

3) Police shoot dogs all the time.  Just hope the police never come to your house looking for a criminal (Balko on the epidemic of shoot first, worry about whether the dog is a potential threat later).

4) Post editorial on the wrong-headedness of the Rick Perry prosecution.  DJC sent me a link suggesting that Perry will be convicted.  I just don’t see it happening.

5) Can taxing the wealthy strengthen democracy?  Probably yes:

The historical record, however, suggests that taxing the wealthiest does have an important, but different, consequence: making the wealthy vested in the common good. In fact, taxing the wealthy was crucial for the emergence of representative government itself.

6) George Will confirms Nixon’s attempts to sabotage peace in Vietnam in order harm LBJ and HH.  Nixon may have done some good things as president, but he was an absolutely abominable human being who would do anything to achieve and protect power.   Or so it was made pretty damn clear to me watching the new HBO documentary on the Nixon tapes.

7) Interesting libertarian piece by Mike Munger on government by unicorn.  Raises good points, to which I say I’ll still take government by horribly fallible humans over the alternative.

8) People in rich counties disproportionately search google about tech stuff (and boy do they love Canon cameras).  In poor counties it’s all about diabetes.  And hell.

9) John Oliver with his typically brilliant job on police militarization.

10) Interesting essay by Lev Grossman on how he struggles as a writer until he started writing fantasy.  I’ve been meaning to read The Magicians for a while.  Will try to do so soon unless some of you tell me otherwise.

11) Dahlia Lithwick on how the police in Ferguson have run roughshod over all sorts of Bill of Rights protections.

12) Lenore Skenazy on helicopter parenting run amok and how today’s parents want to criminalize the behavior that was the parenting approach of their own parents.

13) Fascinating study of why some people, but not others, in a near-death experience (a plane crash) develop PTSD.   I’ve always been a very psychologically stable person, but I’ve never really been pushed.  I’ve always wondered how I would respond to something like this or being in a war zone.  Of course, I hope I never have to find out.

14) That toddler injured by the flash-bang grenade thrown it its crib during a no-knock warrant search?  The county does not think it needs to pay for his medical bills.  Is this America or Russia damnit?!

15) Turns out breakfast is not the most important meal of the day after all.  Maybe.  I actually never ate breakfast at all until I got married and then started eating it every day just because Kim was.  I cannot imagine not doing so now (though sounds like not a bad way to save some calories, actually).

 

Women’s political ambition (or lack thereof)

I must say I hated the title of this Wonkblog post “Everything you think you know about women and politics is wrong.”  Really?  Time to revise my entire Gender & Politics syllabus, I suppose.  Alright, most readers don’t teach that class, but still, way too click-baity.

That said, a nice report on some interesting findings on women and political ambition.   What many people do not realize (which is not the same as being wrong) is that, across the board, women have substantially less ambition for political office than men.  And that, far more than anything else, accounts for the lack of women in political office.  The latest research from Jennifer Lawless (the ultimate guru of women and political office) shows that this is not at all about differences related to parenthood.  The gap between child-less women and men is pretty much the same as the gap between women and men with children.  Here’s the key chart:

So, what’s behind the lack of ambition.  Short version… men are overconfident, women are underconfident.  I suspect this difference extends well beyond politics.  Here’s the longer version from Lawless:

STP: How do you explain the disparity in terms of ambition and confidence about running for office. Is it that men think they are all that, and women don’t?

Lawless: Men overestimate and women underestimate. Men look around and see that lots of people come in all different shapes and sizes. But, for women, to the extent that you don’t fit the mold of say, Hillary Rodham Clinton or Sarah Palin, there is greater opportunity for self doubt. Although there is no female bias on Election Day — voters are just as willing to vote for women as men — but that is not the perception, so the women and men thought there was a perceived bias. Women think that they have to be twice as good to get twice as far. The women who are saying that they aren’t qualified are making assumptions based on wrong information, but information that happens to be the conventional wisdom. So getting out the message that people will vote for women is important.

I’m actually quite surprised that there’s basically no impact of family structure or responsibilities.  Personally, the idea of undertaking a grueling political campaign while also trying to do my part in caring for my children seems insane to me.  I’m too lazy to do it when the kids are grown, but it certainly seems more plausible.  Apparently, I’m unusual in thinking that way.  A good friend  is currently running for NC State Senate and her two children are under 5.  At a recent lunch she joked, but seriously, about hardly seeing her kids at all during the week (she’s also holding down a job).  More power to her for making the personal sacrifice because she really wants better for this state, but I am honestly surprised that raising children does not have more impact on political ambition.

 

 

Quick hits (part II)

1) Parenting habits from around the world that have not caught on in the US.  I love the non paranoia parenting of the Danish and Japanese.

2)  I truly believe the horrible-ness (especially the fundraising) keeps many very good people from running for political office (all the more reason I’m impressed my friend Sarah Crawford is doing it anyway).

3) FIFA is planning on having the women’s World Cup played on artificial turf.  So wrong.  And such an insult to women athletes.

4) Loved this Slate piece on the evolution of the SEC logo (and the bigger story of letters in circle logos).

5) From what I’ve read so far, I find the indictment of Rick Perry utterly ridiculous.  I suspect most of the liberals happy about this have their liberal blinders one.  Within a very wide latitude, politics should not be criminalized.

6) Loved this story on African Wild Dogs (apparently, they are almost the honeybees of the mammal world in terms of their level of social evolution).

7) Among all the wrongness of the Ferguson police, directly attacking the media is about as bad as it gets.

8) Don’t ask your kids what to do.  Tell them what to do.  (Of course, I need to make sure they actually do what I tell them).

9) No, arming the Syrian rebels would not have stopped ISIS.

10) Great Krugman column on the libertarian fantasy.  (Think “Toledo water).;

11) There’s a pretty easy technological solution to dramatically reduce police brutality.  And false charges of police brutality.  Police should wear video cameras.  It has worked great in once city.

12) The Upshot on the rise of pizza.  Hooray– certainly has made my life better.

13) Emily Bazelon on the police and race.

Quick hits (part I)

Another multi quick-hits weekend.  Enjoy.

1) Pope Francis’ list of tips for becoming a happier person.  Not bad.

2) Five myths about the border crisis.  Myth #1:

1. U.S. immigration policy is to blame for the surge of unaccompanied minors.

3) Hit the reset button on your brain?

Every status update you read on Facebook, every tweet or text message you get from a friend, is competing for resources in your brain with important things like whether to put your savings in stocks or bonds, where you left your passport or how best to reconcile with a close friend you just had an argument with.

If you want to be more productive and creative, and to have more energy, the science dictates that you should partition your day into project periods. Your social networking should be done during a designated time, not as constant interruptions to your day.

Nope, don’t see this happening for me.

4) Speaking of which… fascinating experiment of what happens when a reporter literally “likes” every single post on FB.

5) A happy marriage without children.  Well, of course.  But you damn sure better really like your spouse.

6) Of course, if you do have kids, don’t go to prison.  Our inhumane system will make it absurdly expensive and difficult to stay in touch with them.

7) Also, careful with getting yourself on the sex offender registry.  Even the parent who helped initially push it says it is way over-used now.

8) Was a decrease in testosterone among early human males responsible for eventually leading to civilization?  Makes sense to me.  And some science to support the idea.

9) States with stand your ground laws have more homicides.  I’m shocked.  Shocked.

10) I’m often amazed at how my students’ typos just seem to jump off the page at me whereas my own remain virtually invisible.  Here’s the science behind why this is.  I strongly encourage my students to have a friend read their paper for this reason.  Quite clearly, few actually do (or they have lame friends).  While I’m at… many of them really need to be a lot more careful with their use of the thesaurus.  I don’t have any examples quite this extreme, but my students are using words they don’t actually understand all the time.

11) Great TNR piece from Jason Zengerle about how Civil Rights are going backwards in Alabama.

12)  Veal farmers are adopting more human methods.  On the downside for veal lovers (I never eat it), this apparently means it tastes less like veal and more like regular beef.

13) The Post has a piece on NC Senator Kay Hagan looking to benefit from the backlash against the Republican-led legislature.  I’ve already seen several ads on this theme.

14) Cool study shows that reading about discrimination against “Mudbloods” in Harry Potter can help make kids more tolerant.  Awesome.

Quick hits (part II)

1) I love the size of my Iphone 4s.  I wouldn’t even want the bigger size of the 5, but I’ll need it if I ever want 4g.  Apparently, I’m in quite the minority– at least on a global level– of preferring a smaller smartphone.  I had known about this fact, but did not realize that it is because for so many Asian users, the smartphone is their only internet-connected screen.

2) College education should not be trade school, for lots of good reasons.

3) A children’s book to teach your child to be overly-worried about stranger abductions.  Just what the modern parent needs.

4) And love this Slate report on how much less freedom today’s children have than their parents.

5) This essay on evolution is so awesome.  Totally deserves it’s own post.  But:

So if someone asks, “Do you believe in evolution,” they are framing it wrong. That’s like asking, “Do you believe in blue?”

Evolution is nothing more than a fairly simple way of understanding what is unquestionably happening. You don’t believe in it — you either understand it or you don’t. But pretending evolution is a matter of faith can be a clever way to hijack the conversation, and pit it in a false duality against religion. And that’s how we end up with people decrying evolution, even as they eat their strawberries and pet their dogs, because they’ve been led to believe faith can only be held in one or the other.

But there’s no reason for people of faith to reject the mountains of data and the evidence of their own senses. Reconciling is easy: Believe, if you want to, that God set up the rules of evolution among His wonders, along with the laws of physics, and probability, and everything else we can see and measure for ourselves. But don’t deny evolution itself, or gravity, or the roundness of Earth. That’s just covering your eyes and ears. And only monkeys would do that.

6) Totally love slurpees.  The complete abscence of 7-11’s from the Triangle area just kills me (the imitators are just not as good).  Now, I understand why I love slurpees:

On a sweltering August day, what better to cool you down than a “semi-frozen drink comprising tiny frozen particles each of which contains the proper proportions of water, flavoring and carbon dioxide.” Mmmmm.

7) Yet more evidence that actual voter fraud is only slightly more common than Bigfoot.  But Republicans are only genuinely concerned with fair elections in their support for Voter ID laws.

8) I love the utter genius/craziness of the internet that there is a tumblr dedicated to depictions of anatomically incorrect lobsters.

9) I’ve never really liked the term “African-American” but I’m a little uncomfortable being the judge of that as a white person.  I liked this essay on the problems with it from a Black person upon visiting Africa.

10) Nobody ever believes high-powered politicians, CEO’s, etc., who say they are leaving to spend more time with the family.  Here is one who explains how he genuinely is:

Friends and colleagues often ask my wife how she balances her job [doctor and professor] and motherhood. Somehow, the same people don’t ask me.

11) Where’s my metric system?!

12) The return of Ted Lasso.  If you are Premier League fan, this is pure genius.

13) The case for starting teaching statistics in Kindergarten.  I’m not sure about kindergarten, but there’s definitely something to this.

14) The Persian Gulf war photo nobody would publish.  I’m pretty sure I’ll never forget it– viewer discretion advised.

15) Sean Hannity is a child.  He resents Stephen Colbert pointing this out.

16) Quora on “what is the single most revealing thing about any person?”  A number of variations on the following quote, which I think is pretty true and pretty awesome:

“You can easily judge the character of a man by how he treats those who can do nothing for him.”

~Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe

17) I don’t know much about Alcoholics Anonymous, but I do know that it’s not actually based on any science.  Meanwhile, we’ve learned a ton about the science of addiction in recent years.  Yet, our society still overly relies on this totally a-scientific approach.

18) Are you a narcissist?  That’s the only question you need to find out.

 

 

Quick hits (part II)

1) Fist bumps and high fives spread way less germs than a handshake.  Will we all be fist-bumping each other some day?

2) The present and future of marriage in America.

3) Gender differences in cognition:

Though everyone saw improvements over time, the women did so more dramatically. The gains in smarts coincided with better living conditions, as measured by gross domestic product (GDP), fertility rate, health indicators such as mortality rate, and educational opportunities, the researchers found.

Because women’s better performance coincided with higher levels of societal development across different regions and cohorts, the results suggest that improved living conditions have benefited women more than men. But the scientists aren’t sure whether that trend will continue into the future, as women simply may be “catching up” after starting from further behind, Herlitz said.

4) Were dinosaurs wiped out by bad luck?  Love this bit:

I asked Dr Brusatte: “Could dinosaur you and dinosaur me be having this conversation, instead?” …

“As far as dinosaurs becoming intelligent is concerned the experiment has been done and we call them crows,” he told BBC News.

5) So do not like tattoos.  But I found this video that explains how their permancence to be a function of a complicated interplay with the human immune system to be quite fascinating.

6) Olberman on the NFL, gender, and Ray Rice.  Good stuff.

7) Talk about reverse causality… in many African villages people are thinking that doctors are bringing the Ebola virus with them ans spreading it rather than responding to outbreaks.  Not good.  Also not good– the fact that so many doctors and nurses seem to be getting sick this go round.  Presumably, we are dealing with a newer, more virulent strain of Ebola, but I haven’t read anything good on that yet.

8) Five sort of myths about the gender pay gap.

9) Yet more evidence on the amazing benefits of even a small amount of high-intensity exercise.  You know what also has a great benefit?  Moderate-intensity running for even a few minutes a day.   This part is something:

Remarkably, these benefits were about the same no matter how much or little people ran. Those who hit the paths for 150 minutes or more a week, or who were particularly speedy, clipping off six-minute miles or better, lived longer than those who didn’t run. But they didn’t live significantly longer those who ran the least, including people running as little as five or 10 minutes a day at a leisurely pace of 10 minutes a mile or slower.

Wow!  I run somewhere between 9-10 minute miles (doesn’t feel “leisurely” to me).  Sometimes I feel guilty about not pushing myself harder, but no more!

10) Seth Masket on why political science is science:

Political science is a science. Political scientists come in a variety of flavors, but basically we’re in the business of proposing theories about the way the political world works, testing those theories with some kind of data, subjecting our findings to a peer-review process, and hopefully publishing those findings so that others can confirm or refute what we’ve done. And our understanding of the political world has improved substantially over the past century using this approach. (See Hans Noel’s article for some great examples, and see Julia Azari on Twitter for some more schooling.) That is science.

11) The human evolutionary biology of being politically conservative.

12) Apparently, at Fort Bragg they show way too much deference to officers in matters of safety.  Interesting story of how this led to a Colonel plummeting to his death in a failed parachute jump.

13) I love stuff like this– the ages at which hockey players at different positions have their best performance (interestingly, age seems to make the least difference for goalies).

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