Recent lessons from the NPR Planet Money podcast


in Economics, Geek stuff, Internet matters

Arguments and ideas featured in recent Planet Money podcasts:

It’s a good podcast.

{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

. July 3, 2011 at 10:16 am
Byron Smith July 5, 2011 at 5:04 pm

Don’t have time to listen to the podcast at the moment, but I’m a little confused about the first claim re sex ed strategy. The point about STDs makes sense (if we assume that no-one in one’s extended network of sexual partners has intercourse with an older person, which seems unlikely), but I don’t see how avoiding sex with older men leads to fewer pregnancies, unless they have evidence that older men are better at persuading young girls to have sex without a condom than their peers.

Milan July 5, 2011 at 6:17 pm

That was their hypothesis: that the power dynamic between, say, a 15-year-old woman and a 15-year-old man is less unbalanced than between a 15-year-old woman and a 40-year-old man. In the first case, the woman may be more able to insist on effective precautions against pregnancy.

One other factor behind the statistics could be that babies conceived between young women and older men are less likely to be aborted than those conceived between two young people.

Byron Smith July 5, 2011 at 7:34 pm

Which may or may not be a fair assumption (I don’t doubt the power imbalance, simply question whether if this is the strategy – telling 15 year olds to be free to have sex with each other – then it is questionable whether this makes a huge difference). But even if correct, is this approach really going to “prevent” teenage pregnancy and STDs or simply reduce them (slightly)? Maybe I’m reading too much into your summary and their power includes the relevant caveats. I guess I shouldn’t really be complaining if I’m not going to listen to the argument at the moment.

. July 5, 2011 at 7:43 pm

Relative Risks and the Market for Sex: Teenage Pregnancy, HIV, and Partner Selection in Kenya
Pascaline Dupasy

Dartmouth College

This Draft: October 2007


Income and HIV prevalence are both positively correlated with age among Kenyan men below 40. While the Örst correlation is easily observable, the second is not. Thus, in the absence of information on the distribution of HIV rates by age, teenage girls may be more likely to choose older partners, who are better providers than teenage boys especially in the event of a pregnancy. This paper presents an experiment in which Kenyan teenagers in randomly selected schools were given information on the distribution of HIV by age and gender. The information campaign led to a 65% decrease in the incidence of pregnancies by older partners among teenage girls in the treatment group relative to the comparison, suggesting an important decrease in the incidence of unprotected sex with older partners. While self-reported data suggest substitution towards same-age partners, there was no increase in childbearing with same-age partners due to increased condom use. In contrast, a program that provided information on the average risk of HIV infection but not its distribution by age group had no impact on the incidence of unprotected sex as measured by childbearing rates. These results suggest that prevention policies that focus only on the elimination of a risky activity and do not address risk reduction strategies may be ignoring a margin on which they could have substantial impact.

JEL codes: I12, O12, D81. Keywords: risk behavior; information; experiment.

Milan July 5, 2011 at 7:52 pm

I think that is one study Abhijit Banerjee and Esther Duflo base that argument on, but I think there are others as well. They have a new book out.

Byron Smith July 5, 2011 at 7:56 pm

Thanks – the extra detail is helpful. Interesting that the study is in Kenya. Would the same hold for teens in Canada?

teenage girls may be more likely to choose older partners, who are better providers than teenage boys especially in the event of a pregnancy.
Especially this bit. How many teenage girls in Canada choose to have sex with older men because they think “if I get pregnant, he’ll have more money”? I have no idea.

. July 5, 2011 at 8:03 pm

Do Teenagers Respond to HIV Risk Information? Evidence from a Field Experiment in Kenya

Pascaline Dupas

NBER Working Paper No. 14707
Issued in February 2009
NBER Program(s): CH

I use a randomized experiment to test whether information can change sexual behavior among teenagers in Kenya. Providing information on the relative risk of HIV infection by partner’s age led to a 28% decrease in teen pregnancy, an objective proxy for the incidence of unprotected sex. Self-reported sexual behavior data suggests substitution away from older (riskier) partners and towards protected sex with same-age partners. In contrast, the national abstinence-only HIV education curriculum had no impact on teen pregnancy. These results suggest that teenagers are responsive to risk information but their sexual behavior is more elastic on the intensive than on the extensive margin.

Contraception as Development? New Evidence from Family Planning in Colombia
Grant Miller / Colombia / 2010

Exploiting the haphazard expansion of Colombia’s family planning program, PROFAMILIA, the author found that postponing firth births enabled women to “obtain more education, work more, and live independently in later life.”

Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women worldwide
Nicholas D. Kristof, Sheryl WuDunn / Global / 2009

Gendercide and women’s worldwide disempowerment have direct moral implications (individuals and countries have an obligation to combat these occurrences) and direct impacts on economic development.

HIV/AIDS and Fertility
Jane Forston / sub-Saharan Africa / 2009

From the abstract: “This paper studies the response of fertility to the HIV/AIDS epidemic in sub-Saharan Africa…My results suggest that HIV/AIDS had very little impact on fertility, both overall and in a sample of HIV-negative women.”

Working for the Future: Female Factory Work and Child Height in Mexico
David Atkin / Mexico / 2009

The author demonstrates that women working in an export manufacturing factory had significantly taller children.

Early Marriage, Age of Menarche, and Female Schooling Attainment in Bangladesh
Attila Ambrus, Erica Field / Bangladesh / 2008

Using variation in age of menarche, each year of delayed marriage generates benefits in educational attainment and future earnings.

Family Planning as an Investment in Female Human Capital: Evaluating the Long Term Consequences in Matlab, Bangladesh
T. Paul Schultz, Shareen Joshi / Bangladesh / 2007

A family planning program conducted in rural Bangladesh was found to reduce fertility and produce indirect benefits in women’s health, household assets, women’s activities outside of the house, use of preventative inputs, and others.

Milan July 5, 2011 at 8:05 pm

The ideal way to see how the approach would work in Canada would be to conduct an experiment: tell one group of teenagers to avoid sex with older men (explaining why) and tell another to avoid sex with everybody. Wait five years or so and see how the two groups have fared.

Milan July 12, 2011 at 7:29 pm

The latest Planet Money podcast is about how a hit pop song gets created. In this case at least, the artist who gets most of the public credit doesn’t have that much to do with it.

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