The Socioeconomic Impact of Access to Contraception in the U.S.: Using Linked Restricted Data


Mencoff Hall 205

Amanda Stevenson, Assistant Professor of Sociology, University of Colorado Boulder

Abstract: Over the last 50 years, access to contraception in the U.S. has been supported by dedicated public funding streams. Benefits to women’s lives are often cited as a rationale for these programs. But there is surprisingly little rigorous contemporary evidence to support the claim that access to contraception itself impacts women’s economic outcomes and human capital accumulation. This absence of evidence leaves a dominant rationale for the public subsidy of contraception untested at a time when family planning policy is increasingly contested.

Associations between social advantage and both fertility timing and socioeconomic characteristics have long complicated the establishment of causality in this area. Both a lack of adequate data and challenges in research design limit our ability to assess the of impacts of contemporary changes in access to contraception. In addition, there are active debates around whether access to the means of controlling fertility benefits all groups equally. The Colorado Family Planning Initiative (CFPI), begun in 2009, dramatically increased access to – and use of – the full range of highly effective contraceptive methods in all federally funded Title X family planning clinics in Colorado, offering a rare statewide natural experiment with which to assess the impacts of expanded access to highly effective contraception on women’s lives.

This talk will describe the construction of large-scale, individual-level, longitudinal dataset with which we can follow individuals over time as they did or did not gain access to contraception through CFPI. The construction of this dataset is possible because of a partnership with the U.S. Census Bureau providing unique access to restricted individual-level microdata from decennial Census responses, IRS tax filings, the Census Household Composition Key File, Medicaid Eligibility Records, and the American Community Survey responses. Taking a difference-in-differences approach, these data allow us to compare changes in educational attainment and family-level poverty as Coloradans gained access to highly effective contraception with changes in comparison states.

Bio: Amanda Jean Stevenson is a sociologist trained in demographic and computer science methods. She studies the impacts of and responses to abortion and contraception policy in the contemporary U.S. She leads a team using massive administrative data at the Census Bureau to construct a full-count U.S. population register for the demographic study of fertility and socioeconomic outcomes, Reproduction in People’s Lives (RIPL). She and her team use RIPL to evaluate the life course consequences of improved access to the full range of contraceptive methods in Colorado. She also evaluates the impacts of abortion restrictions, including the maternal mortality consequences of banning legal induced abortion and the impacts of parental involvement laws for abortion. In another line of scholarship, she studies the social movements aiming to change U.S. family planning policy. 

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