Why the government should buy birth control for more people

In short, it saves the government a ton of money.  It’s a great investment.  From Wonkblog:

Past research from the Guttmacher Institute, a research organization that supports publicly funded family programs, already found that family planning services helped prevent an estimated 2.2 million unintended pregnancies in 2010, which would have resulted in about 1.1 million unplanned births.

A new Guttmacher report out Tuesday morning finds that the public investment in family planning actually saved taxpayers $13.6 billion in 2010 from the costs of those unintended pregnancies, as well as from other services the programs provide, like testing for sexually transmitted infections and cervical cancer. [emphasis mine]

About 9 million women received contraceptive services from publicly supported providers in 2010, costing about $2.2 billion and accounting for about one-third of all women who received such services that year. Most of these publicly funded visits occurred in Title X-supported health centers, as well as Medicaid physician offices, report author Jennifer Frost and her colleagues write in the new study published in The Milbank Quarterly.

Title X funding, in particular, has come under attack from some conservatives in recent years…

The Guttmacher report is a reminder that family planning services are about much more than just contraception. More than 90 percent of these publicly funded providers offer screening for HIV and sexually transmitted infections, like chlamydia and gonorrhea. Catching these diseases early can pay off down the road through immediate treatment and long-term changes in a patient’s behavior.

Wouldn’t it be great if conservatives were more interested in saving the government money than in having women face greater consequences for having sex?

Photo of the day

So love this from the Telegraph’s Animal photos of the week:

Say cheese! This inquisitive vole decides to take charge of a photo shoot. It had managed to climb up on a piece of moss which gave the little vole a perfect view through the camera's viewfinder.  Photographer Simon Roy captured the images in his back garden at his home near York in North Yorkshire.

Say cheese! This inquisitive vole decides to take charge of a photo shoot. It had managed to climb up on a piece of moss which gave the little vole a perfect view through the camera’s viewfinder. Photographer Simon Roy captured the images in his back garden at his home near York in North Yorkshire.Picture: Simon Roy/Solent News

Chart of the day: tight oil

I know that do to fracturing and other new techniques, the US is producing ever more oil and gas than before.  I did not know that this harder-to-extract oil is called “tight oil.”  But, damn, do we kick butt at it:

graph of tight oil production in the U.S. and the rest of the world, as explained in the article text

U.S. tight oil production averaged 3.22 million barrels per day (MMbbl/d) in the fourth quarter of 2013, according to U.S. Energy Information Administration estimates. This level was enough to push overall crude oil production in the United States to an average of 7.84 MMbbl/d, more than 10% of total world production, up from 9% in the fourth quarter of 2012. The United States and Canada are the only major producers of tight oil in the world. In recent years, North American producers have developed technologically advanced drilling and completion processes to produce oil from tight formations.

Tight oil refers to oil found within reservoirs with very low permeability, including but not limited to shale. Permeability is the ability for fluid, such as oil and gas, to move through a rock formation. In February 2014, 63% of U.S. tight oil production came from two basins: the Eagle Ford in South Texas (1.21 MMbbl/d, or 36% of total U.S. tight oil production), and the Bakken Shale in North Dakota and Montana (0.94 MMbbl/d, or 28% of total U.S. tight oil production). Tight oil production in the United States represents 91% of all North American tight oil production, with the remaining 9% coming from Canada.

Raise your hand if you thought the US produced 10% of the world’s crude oil.  I knew we were producing a lot more, but had not appreciated just how much.  I learned about “tight oil” in this excellent Vox interview about the many ramifications, foreign and domestic, of the US’s oil boom.

How to learn

Really enjoyed this NYT piece last week on the latest science of the best ways to learn.  I especially enjoyed seeing that the most effective approach was what I had figured out for myself in college.  Here you go:

In the new book “How We Learn: The Surprising Truth About When, Where, and Why It Happens” (Random House), Benedict Carey, a science reporter for The New York Times, challenges the notion that a high test score equals true learning. He argues that although a good grade may be achieved in the short term by cramming for an exam, chances are that most of the information will be quickly lost. Indeed, he argues, most students probably don’t need to study more — just smarter…

The first step toward better learning is to simply change your study environment from time to time. Rather than sitting at your desk or the kitchen table studying for hours, finding some new scenery will create new associations in your brain and make it easier to recall information later…

One way to signal to the brain that information is important is to talk about it. Ask a young student to play “teacher” based on the information they have studied. Self-testing and writing down information on flashcards also reinforces learning.

Another technique is called distributed learning, or “spacing,” and it’s a particularly relevant aspect of brain science for ambitious students. Mr. Carey compares it to watering a lawn. You can water a lawn once a week for 90 minutes or three times a week for 30 minutes. Spacing out the watering during the week will keep the lawn greener over time…

Studies have shown that for a student to learn and retain information like historical events, vocabulary words or science definitions, it’s best to review the information one to two days after first studying it. One theory is that the brain actually pays less attention during short learning intervals. So repeating the information over a longer interval — say a few days or a week later, rather than in rapid succession — sends a stronger signal to the brain that it needs to retain the information…

From the data, the scientists determined the optimal intervals for learning information. If your test is a week away, you should plan two study periods at least one to two days apart. For a Friday test, study on Monday and review on Thursday. If your test is a month away, begin studying in one-week intervals…

“Sleep is the finisher on learning,” Mr. Carey says. “The brain is ready to process and categorize and solidify what you’ve been studying. Once you get tired, your brain is saying it’s had enough.”

I’ve already shared this with all my students and will continue to do so in future semesters.  And Carey’s books in in my queue– hopefully I’ll report back on it here some day.


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