The impact of contraceptive access on high school graduation

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Science Advances  05 May 2021:
Vol. 7, no. 19, eabf6732
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.abf6732


Does access to the full range of contraceptive methods increase young women’s educational attainment? Family planning programs are often justified by claims that it does, but contemporary evidence is unexpectedly weak. We use a natural experiment afforded by a 2009 Colorado policy change to assess the impact of expanded access to contraception on women’s high school graduation. Linking survey and Census data, we follow a population-representative U.S. sample, including large subsamples of young women living in Colorado in 2010 and in comparison states. Using a difference-in-differences design, we find expansion of access to contraception was associated with a statistically significant 1.66 percentage-point increase in high school graduation. This increase in graduation represents a 14% decrease in the baseline percentage not graduating high school before the policy change. Results are robust to a variety of sensitivity tests. Our findings indicate that improving access to contraception increases young women’s human capital formation.

This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial license, which permits use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, so long as the resultant use is not for commercial advantage and provided the original work is properly cited.

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