A new study has found that making contraceptives and reproductive care accessible through a state-funded program in Colorado reduced the high school dropout rate for young women.
Researchers from the University of Colorado and the U.S. Census Bureau conducted a study that compared graduation rates in Colorado before and after the state adopted the Colorado Family Planning Program with those of 17 other states without such policies.
Estimates show that the program reduced the percentage of Colorado women between the ages of 20 and 22 without a high school diploma by 14%. The researchers estimated an additional 3,800 women born between the years 1994 and 1996 who graduated from high school by their early twenties.
“As someone who studies the subject, I was surprised,” said lead study author Amanda Stevenson, according to Wired. “I didn’t expect to see this big [of] an effect.”
The new study, said Emily Johnston, a senior research associate at the Urban Institute, which conducts economic and social policy research, is “addressing a question the field has long been interested in: What are the impacts, beyond fertility, on people’s lives?”
Johnston said that, while she is confident in the results, one limitation of the study is the small Black and Asian populations in Colorado where there are ethnic disparities in contraception access. In the future, further analysis of family planning programs in other states will be needed.
Stevenson said that birth control and family planning programs can have a long-term economic effect not only for the state but for individual women and their families.
“Empowering people to control their fertility lets them invest in their futures in a different way,” Stevenson said, according to Wired. “It makes people’s lives better. If more people graduate from high school, that’s good for all of us.”