Guttmacher Institute Researcher Cites Fracking Jobs in N.Dakota as Factor in Low Teen Pregnancies

Natural gas is burned off next to water reservoirs used for fracking at an oil well site August 23, 2011 near Tioga, North Dakota. Hydraulic fracturing, often called fracking or hydrofracking, is the process of initiating and subsequently propagating a fracture in a rock layer, employing the pressure of a fluid as the source of energy The fracturing, known as a frack job is done from a wellbore drilled into reservoir rock formations, in order to increase the extraction rates and ultimate recovery of oil and natural gas and coal seam gas. (Photo: KAREN BLEIER/AFP/Getty Images)

A recently released report by the Guttmacher Institute regarding teenage pregnancies, births and abortions up until 2008 found North Dakota among states with the smallest number of teen pregnancies — less than 1,600. The reason as to why, as told by a Guttmacher researcher to Slate, might be surprising.

Guttmacher senior researcher Laura Lindberg told Slate’s Amanda Hess the state could have fracking to thank.

“It’s not by having such great sex ed, contraception access, and abortion providers,” Hess reported Lindberg saying.

The thousands of jobs and an influx of men to snatch them up in the state, Hess reported, could be one of the reasons for the low teen pregnancy rate:

You might think there would be higher rates of teen pregnancy with more seed floating around, but research suggests that women are more likely to delay pregnancy when they perceive future opportunities to climb the social and economic ranks—to get an education, a job, and a committed partner who benefits from the same. By the numbers, the prospects for North Dakota’s women look good: North Dakota now has the third-highest ratio of men to women in the U.S. and the oil boom has pushed North Dakota’s overall unemployment rate down to 3.2 percent.

As University of Missouri-Kansas City law professor and co-author of “Red Families vs. Blue Families: Legal Polarization and the Creation of Culture” June Carbone put it to Slate:  “The best contraceptive has always been a promising future, and North Dakota is one of the few places in the United States right now that is booming.”

Other factors that might contribute to the low numbers, as pointed out by Hess, include the population being spread out, having only one Planned Parenthood for the whole state, and a mandate that allows only abstinence to be taught as the contraceptive method in school sex education classes.

It might also be interesting to note some of the other publications who have picked up Hess’ analysis are states with fracking activity: the Akron Beacon Journal in Ohio and the Pittsburgh Post Gazette in Pennsylvania.

Overall, the Guttmacher report found between 2005 and 2008, teen pregnancy rates decreased by 5 percent or more in seven states. In more than 16 states though, it increased by 5 percent or more. Prior to this time – between 1988 and 2005 — teen pregnancy rates were declining in all states, the institute’s press release stated.

“There are a few key factors driving the long-term declines in teen pregnancies,” Lindberg said in a statement. “It is now the norm for teens to use contraceptives at first sex, which creates a pattern of continued contraceptive use down the road. Additionally, teens increasingly use the most effective methods, including hormonal methods and long-acting contraceptive methods like the IUD. By contrast, there has been less change in teens’ levels of sexual activity.”