BOSTON - (March 9) Local access to Planned Parenthood clinics has been associated with a 16 percent decrease in high school dropout rates for young women, according to a new study.
Using national survey data for 284,910 young women and location data for more than 3,000 clinics, researchers at Tufts Medical Center and Harvard Medical School studied whether young women who lived in regions with Planned Parenthood clinics were less likely than similar women in other regions to drop out of high school. Notably, the association that they found does not appear to be driven by the abortion services provided by Planned Parenthood clinics. They found a similar pattern for clinics with and without abortion services.
“Although Planned Parenthood is commonly known for abortion services, our results actually indicate that Planned Parenthood’s other services, such as contraception, may be more important for educational attainment,” said study lead author Katherine Hicks-Courant, MD. The study is published in the April 2016 issue of Obstetrics & Gynecology.
“We can’t say for sure that the clinics are responsible for the differences in high school dropout rates, but we did our best to account for other factors,” said study senior author Aaron L. Schwartz, PhD, of Harvard Medical School. In their analysis, the authors compared the educational outcomes of young women with similar socio-demographic characteristics that may affect high school dropout rates, such as age, race, and family income. In order to account for other factors that may affect educational attainment like the quality of the school system, they also limited their comparisons to young women in communities with similar high school dropout rates for young men.
In addition to Planned Parenthood clinics, the researchers also studied a broader set of clinics funded by Title X, a federal grant program enacted by Congress in 1970 dedicated to community-based reproductive health and family planning services. Title X-funded clinics, many of which are based at primary care offices, were not consistently associated with a change in high school dropout rates.
This study contributes to a small but growing body of research about the impact of access to family planning services on communities. For example, a recent article in The New England Journal of Medicine reported that a law in Texas excluding Planned Parenthood affiliates from the state’s Medicaid fee-for-service family planning program resulted in a reduction in contraception continuation and an increase in childbirth rates among women with Medicaid.
This study received no external funding.
About Tufts Medical Center
Tufts Medical Center is an exceptional, not-for-profit, 415-bed academic medical center that serves adults and children. Located in downtown Boston, the Medical Center is a regional referral center for complex and high-risk care, and the principal teaching hospital for Tufts University School of Medicine. Tufts Medical Center is the full-service children's hospital of Tufts Medical Center and the principal pediatric teaching hospital of Tufts University School of Medicine. Tufts Medical Center is affiliated with the New England Quality Care Alliance (NEQCA), a network of more than 1,800 physicians throughout Eastern Massachusetts. Together with NEQCA and Lowell General Hospital, Tufts MC is part of Wellforce, a health system focused on innovations in care integration, population health management, access and operational excellence. For more information, please visit www.tuftsmedicalcenter.org.