Saturday, October 30, 2010
I asked Josh Libresco, Executive Vice President of The OSR Group, a public opinion and marketing research firm based in San Rafael, California, to weigh in on the recent CDC study showing that states emphasizing abstinence-only education in schools also have the highest teen pregnancy rates. Did the media infer too much causation?
Does Abstinence Make the Heart Grow Fonder?
Quinn Fabray, the fictional cheerleading captain on the Fox series, Glee, spent most of last season pregnant and feeling that the pregnancy had turned her world upside down. Ironically, Quinn was also the President of the Celibacy Club, at least until her condition was revealed and she quickly became the ex-President.
A new study released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggests that irony is not confined to the Fox Network. According to the CDC study, some U.S. states have dramatically higher teenage pregnancy rates than others, and the states with the highest teen pregnancy rates happen to be states that emphasize abstinence-only education.
In Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Vermont, for example, 2008 birth rates were less than 25 per 1,000 teens aged 15 to 19. By contrast, in Mississippi, Arkansas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Texas, the birth rate was higher than 60 per 1,000 teens in the same age group.
There is no doubt that teen pregnancies can lead to poor health outcomes for both the mother and the child, and the CDC data have been used to advocate for more aggressive efforts at sex education.
But is it really fair to connect abstinence-only education with teen pregnancy? Or, to put it more precisely, is it fair to say that there is a causal link between abstinence-only education and higher teen pregnancy rates? The two items may be correlated, but is it fair to say that the first causes the second?
Other state-by-state data provide some clues. In the New England states, for example, the average age of mothers at first birth is more than 27, among the highest in the nation. (This is from a National Center for Health Statistics Study conducted in 2002.) At the other extreme are Mississippi, Arkansas, Louisiana, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Wyoming - many of the same states highlighted above. In these states, the average age of mothers at first birth is around 23. Is the average lower because of teen births, or are there other factors that lead people to start their families earlier in these states?
A 2007 AAUW (American Association for University Women) study revealed that the same set of states also tends to be lowest in educational attainment for women. Arkansas ranks next to last among the states in the proportion of women who have achieved a four-year college degree. Mississippi ranks 45th; Oklahoma ranks 42nd, Texas is 35th, and New Mexico ranks 25th. Are these educational levels lower because of teen pregnancy, or are there other reasons that women in these states might choose to forgo college and begin their families earlier?
A 2010 study by the Guttmacher Institute provides another important piece of the puzzle. While teen birthrates are highest in the five states listed above, the abortion rates in these states tend to be among the lowest. Arkansas ranks 45th in the percentage of teens 15-19 who choose to end their pregnancies with abortions, and Mississippi, Oklahoma, and Texas are also in the bottom half of the states with respect to abortion percentage. Teens in the New England states are much more willing to consider abortions - for example, Connecticut ranks 5th on this measure, and Massachusetts ranks 11th. So some of the explanation for high teen birth rates in the abstinence-only states is that teens in those states are more likely to carry their babies to term.
And now we get to the key, unspoken factor in the equation - religion. In some states, strong Fundamentalist religious beliefs discourage sex education, and also discourage both birth control and abortion. Young women in Fundamentalist families may also be less interested in pursuing higher education and more interested in starting families early.
How does this relate to the five high-profile, abstinence-only states? According to statistics from the Southern Baptist Convention, in 1990, Mississippi had the highest percentage of Southern Baptists in the nation - almost 34%. Oklahoma was third, at 31%, and Arkansas, at 25%, was in 7th place. Texas stood 10th in Southern Baptist percentage (19%), and even New Mexico - not exactly a Southern state - had 10% Southern Baptists, good for 14th place nationwide.
So yes, it may be true that abstinence-only education is related to higher teen pregnancy, but it is also related to a number of other factors - including average age of the mother at birth, educational attainment of women, willingness to have an abortion, and even religious affiliation. Yet correlation is not the same as causation. The CDC study does not prove that abstinence-only education has somehow caused an increase in teen pregnancy, and the study does not separate the influence of abstinence-only education from the influences of many other, related factors.
After all, abstinence-only states should not be the only targets in the battle against teen pregnancy. In 2010, Ohio abandoned abstinence-only, and began a sex education program in schools for the first time in 10 years. Glee's Quinn Fabray lives in Lima, Ohio.
Josh Libresco is Executive Vice President of The OSR Group, a public opinion and marketing research firm based in San Rafael, California. His firm conducts research projects using online interviews, telephone surveys, focus groups, and other methods for corporations, foundations, and government agencies throughout the United States and in more than 60 countries around the world.
Some key components of GDP continued to expand in the third quarter. Consumer expenditures on goods and services rose at an annual rate of 2.6 percent, up slightly from the second quarter. Fixed investment (nonresidential structures, equipment and software, and housing investments) grew at an annual rate of 0.8 percent. Business investment in equipment and software increased by 12 percent, the fourth consecutive quarter of solid growth, indicating continued expansion of investments by private firms. Inventory investment contributed 1.4 percentage points to GDP growth, slightly less than the average in the last four quarters. Residential investment, however, declined.
Today’s report shows that real GDP, the total amount of goods and services produced in the country, grew at a 2.0 percent annual rate in the third quarter of this year, the fifth straight quarter of positive growth. While the economy continues to recover from the deepest recession since World War II, faster growth is needed to bring down the unemployment rate more quickly.
Given the depth and severity of the recession, considerable work remains before our economy is fully recovered. Therefore, it is essential that we take the additional targeted actions that the President has recommended to further stimulate growth and job creation, such as extending tax cuts for the middle class, investing in our infrastructure, providing tax incentives to encourage businesses to invest here at home, and promoting exports abroad.
Austan Goolsbee is the Chairman of the President’s Council of Economic Advisers
Sunday, October 24, 2010
Christine O'Donnell Slams Media, Defends Views on Church-State Separation
In an interview with ABC's "Good Morning America" on Thursday, Delaware Senate candidate Christine O'Donnell defended comments she made questioning the notion of the separation of church and state in the First Amendment. She also said she thought she "got the better of" Democratic rival Chris Coons in the Tuesday morning debate where she made the comments.
"It's really funny the way that the media reports things," O'Donnell said, in an interview with ABC's Jonathan Karl. "After the debate, my team and I, we were literally high-fiving each other... thinking that we had exposed [that Coons] doesn't know the First Amendment. And then when we read the reports that said the opposite we were all like 'what?!'"
"I do think I got the better of him," O'Donnell added, citing that when she asked Coons to name the "five freedoms" of the First Amendment, "he could not."
O'Donnell and Coons faced off on Tuesday in a heated debate at Delaware's Widener School of Law, and O'Donnell raised eyebrows when she challenged Coons on his assertion that the Constitution delineates the separation of church and state.
"Let me just clarify: You're telling me that the separation of church and state is found in the First Amendment?" O'Donnell said during the Tuesday debate.
When pressed during the Thursday interview to clarify her position on the separation of church and state, O'Donnell cited the language of the Constitution.
"Well I think it says exactly what it says: that the government will not create - will not dictate - that every American has to believe a certain way, but it won't do anything to prevent the free exercise thereof," she said.
The controversial Tea Party candidate also made a plea for support from Republican Party leadership during the interview. "This is a call-out to them," O'Donnell said, adding that when she approached the party for help, "they said that if we close the gap in the polls... and, you know, and that's a shame."
Newt Gingrich this past week said the following, per NBC's John Boxley, about Nevada Senate candidate Sharron Angle (R) not speaking to the press.
So First Read did check.
'I think she should have a press conference at least as often as President Obama...check how often President Obama has had real press conferences, very very seldom, less than any recent president.'
First, a note about accessibility. President Obama went through one of the longest primaries in American history. Democrats had about 40 debates, including the three for the presidential general election. That's not including the various question-and-answer sessions at the back of campaign planes. Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, John McCain and most of the others who ran in 2008 were far more vetted and questioned than Sharron Angle, Joe Miller, Christine O'Donnell, or Sarah Palin, for that matter, whom the press had just two-plus months to question before the general election.Regarding his time in office, President Obama, through Sept. 10, 2010, has held 36 press conferences (15 solo and 21 joint), according to data compiled by Dr. Martha Joynt Kumar, a political science professor at Towson University. Obama has held 67 short question-and-answer sessions, 216 interviews and 820 addresses and remarks.
He has averaged about two press conferences per month. Where does that rank when it comes to 'any recent president?'It's slightly less than former President George W. Bush, who average 2.2 per month over eight years; it's the same as former President Clinton, who also averaged 2.0 per month; and four times as many as former President Reagan, who held just an average of 0.5 per month. In fact, Obama in less than two years, has given just 10 fewer total press conferences than Reagan did in eight years (36 vs. 46).
President George H.W. Bush gave an average of 3.0 per month; Carter just 1.2 a month; Ford 1.3; Nixon 0.6; Johnson 2.2; Kennedy 1.9; Eisenhower 2.0; Truman 3.4; Hoover 5.6; Coolidge 7.8; Wilson 1.7.The most press conferences by a president -- by far -- was Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who held 1,020, or an average of seven per month.
As far as strictly solo press conferences, President Obama has given two fewer than President George W. Bush did in his first four years (15 vs. 17). President Bush gave 33 in his second term. President Clinton gave 44 in his first terms and 18 in his second term. H.W. Bush gave 84 solo in four years. President Reagan gave 27 solo in his first term, and 19 solo in his second. President Carter gave 59.President Obama has already given more interviews to reporters than any of his immediate predecessors. He's given 216 interviews; President George W. Bush gave just 76 in eight years; President Clinton gave 82; George H.W. Bush gave 87. President Obama's addresses and remarks are already more than H.W. Bush (625), and almost as many as W. Bush (908) and almost as many as Clinton (837)."
Saturday, October 23, 2010
Here are 10 ways the Administration’s policies benefit women:
Today, the National Economic Council released a report on how the Obama administration’s economic policies address the challenges facing American women, both in the tough economic times we’re going through now and in the long term. From day one, the President has focused on laying the foundation for economic growth that creates good jobs for all Americans -- many of these policies have been particularly important for women.
1. The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, the first bill the President signed, ensures fair treatment in the workplace.
President Barack Obama signs into law the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act in the East Room of the White House.
4. Wall Street reform helps women make smart financial choices by empowering women through financial education and financial literacy. This legislation ends predatory practices, simplifies credit card bills, stops hidden fees and unfair rate hikes, and sets up a Consumer Financial Protection Agency to enforce the toughest financial protections in history.
5. The Affordable Care Act addresses women’s unique health care needs. Health Care reform protects women from insurance company abuses, makes coverage more affordable, and makes preventive care like mammograms, neonatal care, and newborn carefree under all new plans.read more"
Monday, October 11, 2010
From NBC's John Boxley and Domenico Montanaro
SAN DIEGO, Calif. -- Sarah Palin challenged the notion that the Tea Party is extreme in a speech here Saturday.
'The little guys all across America have risen up,' she said, 'and the 'Mama Grizzlies' are starting to growl. We are going to protect our young, we are going to protect the next generation of Americans, so the Mama Grizzlies are growling, we are rising up on our hind legs and saying no, we are going to change course, we need that real hope, we need that real change.'Praising the Tea Party, Palin said, 'The Tea Party is a beautiful movement. It's held both sides of the aisle accountable, and both parts of the GOP and the Democrat machine, they don't know what to do with the Tea Party America.'
Listening to Palin speak, it certainly sounded like the former Alaska governor is in no hurry to return to public office. She's enjoying the chance to speak her mind.'I get to say some things that some of you guys can't say,' she said, 'because I have no title, I have no uniform, I have no office. It's Todd and me -- I get to say what I feel....'
And it was vintage Palin, saying everyone who voted for the Obama-Reid-Pelosi agenda 'must be fired.''We need to take back the gavel from Nancy Pelosi,' Palin said. 'We're going to get this country back on the right track no matter what it takes. We will do it.'
And, of course, she took on the media: ''We have the media here tonight, and its never smart to pick a fight with those who buy ink by the barrelful, but what the heck. When the 'Lamestream Media' just doesn't get it, and if they don't believe what your message is, so they want to belittle you and treat you with much disdain; they can do that to me, that is fine, because I know truth, and I am fine with the political shots they take.'"
Wednesday, October 06, 2010
Here’s how we made it happen.
Late yesterday, just a week after President Obama signed the Small Business Jobs Act of 2010, nearly 2,000 small business owners who had been waiting for SBA-backed loans had been approved and will soon have those loan funds – totaling nearly $1 billion – in hand. That’s a quick turnaround, and it’s an example of this Administration’s deep commitment to giving entrepreneurs and small business owners the support they need to grow and create jobs.
After the Recovery Act passed last year, SBA increased the guarantee and reduced the fees in our top two loan programs. That two-part formula worked. We saw a significant rebound in SBA lending, helping unlock much-needed capital for small businesses. All told, SBA took just $680 million in taxpayer dollars and turned it into nearly $30 billion in lending support to about 70,000 small businesses. That’s a strong bang for the taxpayer buck.
Saturday, October 02, 2010
Generally speaking, a cellphone conversation is a frustrating failure if any of these conditions is true.
1. You have a weak signal.
2. You are using an earpiece or headset.
3. The other person has a weak signal.
4. The other person is using an earpiece or headset.
5. The other person has a cell phone (delay problem).
6. You are multitasking and can't think.
7. The other person is multitasking and can't think.
8. You are in a noisy environment, such as Earth.
9. The other person is in a noisy environment, such as Earth.
10. You get another call you have to take.
11. The other person gets another call he has to take.
12. You have a dying battery.
13. You have a phone that drops calls for no good reason.
14. The other person has a phone that drops calls for no good reason.
15. The other person has a dying battery.
16. You are in a restaurant and you're not a jerk.
17. The other person is in a restaurant and isn't a jerk.
18. There is a child within 100 yards of you.
19. There is a child within 100 yards of the other person.
Yes, that covers almost every situation. And the list goes on. In my life, voice calls using cellphones fail more often than they succeed, and the situation is getting worse. There was a time when most cellphone calls involved a land line on the other end, so at least one end of the conversation was likely to be trouble-free. Now most of the calls I fantasize about making would be between my cellphone and another cellphone. I don't like those odds. So I send text messages instead.
For important calls, I use a land line that serves as my fax line. If I receive a call on my cellphone, I try to keep it short, or I call back from my fax line. Or I beg for an email that gives me whatever information I want. My situation is worse than most because I have an iPhone, and it decides on its own when my calls are done, no matter how strong the signal is. (I suspect that my ear is using the touchscreen without authorization from my brain.)
While voice calling is getting worse, texting is becoming easier. More smartphones have full keyboards. And texting isn't the huge inconvenience that phone calls are. I explained in another post that all phone calls have a victim, i.e. the person receiving the call. You're ALWAYS in the middle of doing something else when someone calls to yack. The worst offenders are the people in cars who don't have satellite radio, or books on tape, and they're just calling to make their drive less boring.
Texting is way better. It can fill in all of the tiny spaces in life while you're waiting for something else to happen and a voice call would be too large for the space. When I get a text alert, it always makes me happy, even before I read the message. When my phone rings, I think, Uh-oh, what fresh hell is this?
Another great advantage of texting is that it thwarts bores. Bores love voice conversations. In a pinch, they will send you overlong emails. But texting forces boring people to be brief. How great is that?
In a situation in which both I and the other person have smartphones, I always choose texting over a voice call. In time, everyone with whom I want to communicate outside of a business context will have a smartphone, and I'll never need to make a cellphone-to-cellphone call again. Kids are already there. Wireless voice calls are dinosaurs, and that big shadow you see is a meteor.