March 7, 2012 — Government efforts to prevent unintended pregnancies are cost effective, producing savings of $2 to $6 for every $1 invested, according to a study from the Center on Children and Families at the Brookings Institution, the New York Times' "Economix" reports (Rich, "Economix," New York Times, 3/5).
Researchers used a simulation model to estimate the savings that could result from investments in three government-financed programs: mass media campaigns to encourage young people to practice safe sex; evidence-based pregnancy prevention programs for teens; and family planning services through Medicaid.
Although all three approaches produced net savings, funding for Medicaid family planning services was the most cost effective. According to the analysis, an investment of $235 million in Medicaid family planning programs would reduce costs to taxpayers by $1.32 billion (Rovner, "Shots," NPR, 3/6).
Adam Thomas, the study's author, said the savings related to Medicaid family planning programs could be higher if spending on other safety net programs for older children and adults, as well as criminal justice spending, were taken into account.
Mass Media, Sex Education Efforts
The study found that a mass media campaign aimed at young people could save taxpayers $431 million annually, while sex education and pregnancy prevention programs would save $356 million per year ("Economix," New York Times, 3/5).
The results were based on a $100 million investment in a mass media campaign, which the study found would lower costs to taxpayers largely by reducing unintended pregnancies, especially among lower-income individuals. For teen pregnancy prevention programs, the study considered a $145 million investment in evidence-based programs that combine an emphasis on abstinence with "educating participants about how to use various methods of contraception."
Thomas said, "Evidence-based pregnancy prevention interventions are public policy trifectas: They generate taxpayer savings, they improve the lives of children and families and they reduce the incidence of abortion" ("Shots," NPR, 3/6).