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Why Teen Pregnancy Isn’t Important July 25, 2011

Posted by geoff in News.

Last one today, I swear. Hot Air Headlines linked to an NYT piece entitled The Sleepover Question, which advocates allowing teens to sleep with their partners openly at home.

Obviously sleepovers aren’t a direct route to family happiness. But even the most traditional parents can appreciate the virtue of having their children be comfortable bringing a girlfriend or boyfriend home, rather than have them sneak around.

As a “most traditional parent,” I can tell you immediately that the author made that bald assertion up. But it gets worse. This fledgling logician leaps from “American parents don’t let kids sleep together” to “American parents don’t educate their children about sex and contraceptives.”


But having made that ill-considered leap, she trots out this tremendous advantage of the Dutch, who are more permissive, over Americans:

Widespread use of oral contraceptives contributes to low teenage pregnancy rates — more than 4 times lower in the Netherlands than in the United States.

Which brings me to the title. “Teenage pregnancy rates” is pretty meaningless, because it includes ages 15-19 (ages 14 and below have a very small pregnancy rate). But most of us don’t care if a girl gets pregnant after high school – they are no longer children/wards of the state at that point; their lives are their own.*

What we definitely do care about is the 15-17 age group, who are still children and should be pursuing their high school education. Their pregnancy rate is 1/3 of the 18-19 group, and almost 1/2 of the average. Here’s a plot by Child Trends Data Bank:

If you consider race, you find that 15-17 year old non-hispanic whites have roughly 1/4 the chance of experiencing a teen pregnancy as do hispanics & blacks. That suggests a significant environmental factor going well beyond sex education or openness to teen sexuality in families.

So these discussions of the “teen pregnancy problem” are pointless w/o breaking the data down by age and demographics, as are comparisons with countries like the Netherlands.

A couple of final gripes:

  • Why compare with the Netherlands? It is true that it has the lowest pregnancy rate among developed countries, , but it is anomalously low compared to all other developed countries, and the demographics are nothing like those of the US. You might as well compare to South Korea, which has half the pregnancy rate of the Netherlands, and has a more repressive treatment of sexuality than the US.
  • All the data for the Netherlands is old. I searched the web for recent data, and all I found was stuff based on a survey from 1995-1998. Using data from 25 years ago to justify current policies is misleading. *Update – I found a fact sheet from 2006 that corroborates the low pregnancy rates up to that time.

*Another point is that women in the US get married an average of 2 years later than women in the Netherlands. That will drive the 18-19 year old pregnancy rates down considerably.


1. lauraw - July 26, 2011

This fledgling logician


2. abu1882 - December 21, 2011

It’s hard to find knowledgeable people on this topic, but you sound like you know what you’re talking about! Pregnancy By Weeks

3. Retired Geezer - December 21, 2011

…but you sound like you know what you’re talking about

Yep. That’s our Geoff. Have you seen his famous unemployment chart, that everybody has stolen?

*beams proudly*

4. geoff - December 21, 2011

Mmmmm……spambot love.

5. Lipstick - December 22, 2011

We live in Geoff’s reflected glory.

(Not being sarcastic — I beam proudly too when seeing The Chart.)

6. Michael - December 22, 2011

Jesus appeared to me in a vision, and He said that the only reason I was allowed to exist was to publish Geoff’s chart.

It’s good to know that your life has some kind of purpose.

7. Michael - December 22, 2011

If you’re curious, Jesus looks a little like Rick Derringer 30 years ago.

8. Michael - December 22, 2011

9. Michael - December 22, 2011

Anyone else notice that, throughout the centuries, depictions of Jesus tend to slightly feminize him and make him asexual?

10. Mrs. Peel - December 22, 2011

Mostly I’ve just noticed that depictions of Yeshua bin Yosef make him look like a white European.

11. Michael - December 22, 2011

Mrs. Peel, nice to learn that you know the actual name.

12. lauraw - December 22, 2011

Interesting point, Michael. There have been studies in recent years on how we perceive faces. Overtly masculine faces are perceived as threatening. Androgynous (computer-averaged) faces are perceived as beautiful.

13. daveintexas - December 22, 2011

I think my face is perceived as “dork”.

I’m ok with this.

14. kevlarchick - December 23, 2011

I picture Jesus as a swarthy, rugged fellow with brown eyes and coarse black hair.
In other words, not like Dave.

15. Retired Geezer - December 23, 2011

Androgynous (computer-averaged) faces are perceived as beautiful.

David Bowie is Jesus?

16. daveintexas - December 23, 2011

He’s very jewish

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