Low-income and dependent young women could very soon lose their access to birth control with Planned Parenthood, the source of millions of Americans’ low-cost or free contraception, slated to be defunded. In response, various private companies from Iodine, which provides free sexual health education online, to Nurx, which delivers affordable birth control through online orders, are stepping up their game to make birth control more accessible. But one new study conducted by Indiana University suggests that for teenage girls working part-time, minimum wage jobs, a higher minimum wage almost functions as a form of birth control.
It sounds crazy, but here are the study’s findings neatly broken down: Analysis of teen birth rates and changes in minimum wages across the country between 2003 and 2014 showed that a dollar-an-hour raise in the minimum wage reduces adolescent birthrates by roughly 2 percent. Essentially, a higher minimum wage appears to be associated with lower teen birth rates, which could certainly have something to do with how independence and a sense of autonomy help young women make healthier decisions, and looking forward, perhaps the ability to save more money will help young women afford to purchase birth control.
The findings of this study certainly contradict the age-old narrative that raising the minimum wage is wasteful and without substantial benefit due to the myth that minimum wage workers are purportedly predominantly lazy, deadbeat teenagers. I say myth because in many cases, minimum wage workers are often working 40 hours a week struggling to provide for their families, but as this study shows, even if they are “lazy deadbeat teenagers,” clearly there is some worthwhile reason to raise the wage, if for no other reason than to improve public health and teenage girls’ standard of living.
At a time of impending crisis regarding access to family planning services, fortunately enough, many major cities across the country are in the process of raising their local minimum wage. Unfortunately, though, the federal minimum wage could be staying what it is for a while.
Research of the minimum wage reveals that raising it has minimal or no effect on employment rates, while serving to increase the GDP, raise the standard of living, encourage consumption, contribute to reducing reliance on the social safety net, and produce a “stimulative effect on the economy as low-wage workers spend their additional earnings, raising demand and job growth, and providing some help on the jobs front,” according to a letter to President Obama by more than 600 economists and Nobel Prize winners.
So, there’s some food for thought.
A higher minimum wage can’t by any means replace the crucial work Planned Parenthood does for countless young women who are able to pursue education and accomplish so many incredible things, all because of the education and resources Planned Parenthood provides. Nonetheless, the study’s findings are interesting.