Family Planning: The short, long and speculative issues
October 19, 2014 11:30 AM   Subscribe

Some interesting recent links on family planning in the short, long and speculative senses.

- Catherine Rampell examines the "information gap" surrounding birth control and family planning amongst young people with lower levels of education.
- Sarah Perry examines the history of fertility transitions over the last 300 years.
- Carl Shulman and Nick Bostrom examine the potential effects of human genetic selection in the next 50 years.

Catherine Rampell: Twenty-somethings with college degrees report using birth control much more consistently than people with no more than a high school diploma. People with less educational attainment were also much more likely to say they know little or nothing about condoms and the pill. And the amount of mistrust, misinformation and old-wives’-taling about birth control was astounding among the less educated, though not wholly absent among college grads.

Sarah Perry: European cultures have historically prevented people from restricting family size within marriage…...A new pattern, allowing for controlled fertility within marriage, simultaneously originated in New England and France in the late eighteenth century. The new pattern traveled with a new set of values, including suffrage, democracy, equality, women’s rights, and social mobility. Its main mechanism of spread was education, the availability of which also incentivized the new fertility pattern’s adoption by providing a clear way for parents to compete for the future status of their children by having fewer children...The benefits of the new pattern are increased material wealth per person, a reduction in disease, starvation, and genocide, and upward social mobility. The main drawback is the onset of a dysgenic phase.

Carl Shulman and Nick Bostrom :we analyze the feasibility, timescale, and possible societal impacts of embryo selection for cognitive enhancement. We find that embryo selection, on its own, may have significant (but likely not drastic) impacts over the next 50 years, though large effects could accumulate over multiple generations. However, there is a complementary technology – stem cell-derived gametes – which has been making rapid progress and which could amplify the impact of embryo selection, enabling very large changes if successfully applied to humans.
posted by Another Fine Product From The Nonsense Factory (5 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite

Anyone else getting shades of Idiocracy from reading that?
posted by SansPoint at 12:31 PM on October 19, 2014 [1 favorite]

I hope I can comment on this intelligently... I read the articles and wondered why the "pulling out"method was not discussed more. When I was a teen in the rural Caribbean this is the method all my peers used and none got accidentally pregnant. Some of my friends were not particularly bright when it came to science but they knew what worked and this was the learned way to go about things from time immemorial. Of course, you needed a partner willing to agree to do this with you, which is where theoretically accidentally pregnancies came from (the stakes were too high for everyone concerned, in my experience, for this to happen with my peers). There were also popular teas to drink homemade from local herbs to ensure your period always came on time, which I know far less about as neither I nor my close friends ever had to resort to that. No one realistically had access to condoms or the pill there. You cannot even steal condoms from pharmacies because first you had to go into the nearest city (during school hours or immediately after - or worse - market day when you bumped into all kinds of people you forgot you knew), then much was behind a gate or the pharmacy desk! And worse, the cashiers probably knew your family!

I myself have used only the pulling out method over the last few monogamous partners with no ill results. I wonder why family planning is always framed as though educated people use the pill or condoms and everyone else just needs to be taught. It would be useful to explore why some people do not choose to use Western family planning methods and build a conversation on that.
posted by partly squamous and partly rugose at 12:58 PM on October 19, 2014 [3 favorites]

I wonder why family planning is always framed as though educated people use the pill or condoms and everyone else just needs to be taught.

The withdrawal method and male condoms are comparably effective at preventing pregnancy. Neither is very good (only ~80% effective with typical use). Also, withdrawal doesn't protect against STIs and isn't woman-controlled.

It would be useful to explore why some people do not choose to use Western family planning methods and build a conversation on that.

You're absolutely right -- people aren't going to use methods that will not work for them, are not accessible, or are culturally incompatible. Health care providers and public health experts must understand the factors that people consider when they're choosing contraception (or deciding not to use contraception).
posted by i_am_a_fiesta at 4:36 PM on October 19, 2014

The second article is both interesting research and awful, classist nonsense. Contra "Idiocracy", civilization is not doomed because the rich people are having fewer kids.

In uncontrolled fertility regimes, wealth (and income, and education) are positively correlated to fertility; as the transition occurs, these become negative predictors of fertility, though not necessarily at the same time. Finland is the only country in which the husband’s income correlates positively to fertility (Weiss 2008). Other countries, from Europe to sub-Saharan Africa, exhibit a pattern in which the intelligent, careful, and wealthy limit their fertility earlier and more than the dull, profligate, and poor (from Gribble et al. 2008):

Education level is not a measure of intelligence, nor is being poor a measure of being profligate.
posted by vibratory manner of working at 7:54 PM on October 19, 2014 [2 favorites]

Checking the cited source, here's what Gribble et al. 2008 has to say on the issue:
Use of family planning is often influenced by such characteristics as education, place of residence, and wealth. Survey data consistently show that within a given country, wealthier women are more likely to use modern family planning methods than poorer women. In sub-Saharan Africa as a whole, three times as many wealthy women use modern contraception as do poor women (see Figure 2).
Actual data on correlation between wealth and contraception use, reference to education level and place of residence. Nothing at all about being intelligent, dull, careful, or profligate.
posted by vibratory manner of working at 8:02 PM on October 19, 2014 [2 favorites]

« Older “Look! Sister Mary Lydia, look. There’s a fireball...   |   carne vera sacra Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments