Study Highlights How Investing a Billion Dollars in Reducing Unintended Pregnancy Can Yield Returns of $3.2 to 6.4 Billion

08/02/2016 |
BOSTON, MA, August 2, 2016—One million, six-hundred thousand unplanned babies were born in the United States in 2011. Research finds that, when young adults become accidental parents, it derails their economic prospects and greatly diminishes their children’s opportunities for success. Accidental parenthood remains among the leading reasons young people drop out of high school and college and is a significant obstacle in preventing these parents, and their children, from achieving economic security for their families.
What if $1 billion dollars could change all of that? “Billion Dollar Bets: Reducing Unintended Pregnancies” outlines seven key investments that could drastically reduce the number of unintended pregnancies in the U.S. each year.
“Change is absolutely within our grasp,” says Bridgespan Partner Debby Bielak, who co-authored the study. “Great gains have been made in the past two decades to reduce the rate of teenage pregnancy, and philanthropy is uniquely positioned to work around the politics of the issue to accelerate this progress.”
The report finds that, though women’s health advocates consider long-acting birth control methods (LARCs) women’s best bet for controlling when they have children, accurate information about them and access to them is scarce.
However, results have been remarkable when these barriers are removed. After an initiative was launched in Colorado in 2009 to provide women with counseling about the range of contraceptive options available and provide free IUDs to those who wanted them, the teen birth rate in the state dropped 48 percent and the birth rate among 20-24-year-old mothers dropped 20 percent.
In their new report, The Bridgespan Group has provided a roadmap for what it would take to make the ‘Colorado effect’ a national one—outlining seven key investments that could be made in the areas of:
  • Improving awareness of LARCs through education;
  • Increasing supply of and low-to-no-cost access to the devices; and,
  • Improving and updating consumer research into the most useful future interventions on this issue.
Drawing on the existing research from Brookings and the Urban Institute, the report also estimates the impact that these investments would have. Findings include:
  • Children who are intentionally timed are seven percentage points more likely to graduate high school and three percentage points less likely to be teen parents.
  • Intentionally timed children are eight percentage points more likely to graduate college.
  • The increased likelihood of children hitting these milestones is estimated to increase their lifetime income by $52,000.
  • Applying the ‘Colorado effect’ to 3.1 million unintended births over five years, it is estimated that these interventions would result in:
    • 62,000 to 124,000 “properly timed” pregnancies (when the mother feels economically positioned to raise a child); and
    • Between $3.2 billion and $6.4 billion in total increased earnings for these children.
“If we were able to invest in the programs proven effective in Colorado on a national scale, we could provide millions of women, and their children, a better chance at achieving the American Dream,” says Bielak.
The report is the result of a project in which The Bridgespan Group sought to identify 15 opportunities where $1 billion of targeted, private funding could make significant headway in improving social mobility for low-income families. In May, Bridgespan released the report, "Billion Dollar Bets to Create Economic Opportunity for Every American,” and announced that six white papers would follow, each detailing one of the data driven investments that could put low-income Americans on an upwardly mobile trajectory. “Billion Dollar Bets: Reducing Unintended Pregnancies” is the second of those white papers.
“Nearly 70 percent of individuals born to parents in the bottom 40 percent of incomes in the U.S. will never make it to the middle class. And most black Americans born into the middle-income quintile fall into one of the bottom two as adults,” Devin Murphy, a Bridgespan manager and study co-author says. “Stagnant social mobility stunts human potential and ultimately affects us all. These reports provide investors with “shovel ready” opportunities to invest to cause real change and see targeted outcomes.”

Contact: Liz London
Director of Media and Conferences
[email protected]

About The Bridgespan Group
The Bridgespan Group ( is a nonprofit advisor and resource for mission-driven organizations and philanthropists. We collaborate with social sector leaders to help scale impact, build leadership, advance philanthropic effectiveness and accelerate learning. We work on issues related to society's most important challenges and to break cycles of intergenerational poverty. Our services include strategy consulting, leadership development, philanthropy advising, and developing and sharing practical insights.
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