Saturday, July 25, 2009

Fun With Numbers.

Is the Guardian taking maths lessons from Gordon "0% rise" Brown. I only ask because I read this:
Teenage pregnancies and syphilis have risen sharply among a generation of American school girls who were urged to avoid sex before marriage under George Bush's evangelically-driven education policy, according to a new report by the US's major public health body.
They are referring to this report from the CDC and I don't think that they have understood it.

For example they claim that teenage pregnancies have risen sharply, but these are the only figures the CDC gives, in table 29, show the rate of pregnancies among 15-19 year olds getting continuously lower:
2000- 84.8
2001- 80.4
2002- 76.0
2003- 73.7
2004- 72.2
This is what the Guardian describes as a sharp rise in teenage pregnancy.

I think I know what they have done, but I'll let readers guess for themselves.

(Report via Letters from a Tory)

Update: I suppose everyone is on tenterhooks waiting to hear my opinion on abstinence only education. If not then tough because I'm going to share my view anyway. I don't think it works well however neither does regular sex ed. I suspect that teaching children English, Science, Foreign Languages & Mathematics properly would have a greater effect in reducing teenage pregnancy than any form of Sex Education.

Update 2: I've compared the teenage pregnancy rate from 1972 to 2004 with the homicide rate for the same year. The correlation between the two sets of figures is .85, which for the benefit of those not familiar with statistical jargon means that there is an extremely strong correlation.

Who knew that murder rates were so strongly influenced by sex education programmes?

Update 3: At least 70 blogs (according to google blogsearch) are covering this story but I appear to be the only person who has spent 5 minutes to actually look at the figures.


Grumpy Old Man said...

Dear Ross. I bought the link from LFAT - cunning plan. :) A good education is probably a factor in reducing teenage pregnancy rates but I haven't seen any studies linking educational attainment with single motherhood,or indeed the comparison of pregnancy rates between private and state schools adjusted for parental class status, have you?
I suggest that hormonal surges, coupled to the disappearance of public disapproval, are as much a factor as educational attainment or class status. We know from women's magazines, (too much time in waiting rooms), that a major contribution to chick mags are stories of balancing careers with family. Even high-achieving women hear the clock ticking and stop their careers to start and raise a family, you probably know some. Economic arguments are irrelevant. When the body clock starts striking baby time, it signals an overwhelming imperative to the female concerned. As a father of 4, I can assure you that affordability is a false path, as no children are affordable!

If high achievers are at the mercy of their hormones, then how much more is a less driven woman with only a lifetime of shelf-stacking and checkout work to look forward to? A baby to her must appear to be an escape from a dire existence and a way of confirming herself as a person. She is approved of by a "progressive" society, the proponents of which are interested only in breaking down traditional values, especially marriage, as a step towards a socialist utopia.

If you want fewer single mothers, change societal values.

Matthew said...

Is this what they've done?

"The long-term decline in birth rates for adolescents was interrupted in 2006, with a 3% overall increase compared with 2005. During 2005--2006, the birth rate for adolescents aged 15--17 years increased 3%, to 22.0 per 1,000 population; in 2007, the rate increased another 1% to 22.2 per 1,000 population (29). In 2006, the number of births to adolescents aged 15--17 years increased 4% to 138,943, approximately the same number as reported in 2002"

Ross said...

Matthew- yes they've confused the teenage birth rate with the teenage pregnancy rate. Without the abortion rate we don't know the pregnancy rate. And even that can barely be described as a 'sharp' rise.

Obviously if they are getting pregnant at the same rate but fewer are choosing abortions then that wouldn't really reflect on the standard of education they were getting.

GOM- "I suggest that hormonal surges, coupled to the disappearance of public disapproval, are as much a factor as educational attainment or class status."

Yes, although there is little that a givernment can do to influence that,

"I haven't seen any studies linking educational attainment "

There is a relationship but there is a debate of what causes what.

James Higham said...

I agree completely with your update. That's the way to go.

Mark Wadsworth said...

What The Graun said was:

"According to the CDC, birth rates among teenagers aged 15 or older had been in decline since 1991 but are up sharply in more than half of American states since 2005".

So they are talking about the period after the years shown in your table and they only refer to "more than half of American states", without saying what has happened to the other half.

As to your remedy, of course education has a lot to do with it, but the difficult bit is educating people!

Also, the other half is all the extra goodies that single mothers get thrown at them, which ought to be scrapped as well.

Ross said...

"Also, the other half is all the extra goodies that single mothers get thrown at them, which ought to be scrapped as well"

There is certainly a marked decline from the 1990s welfare reform onwards.