By Lisa Marshall

Principal investigator
Amanda Stevenson

Eunice Kennedy National Institute of Child Health and Human Development

Collaboration + support
U.S. Census Bureau; University of Colorado Denvery

High school graduates hugging at graduation ceremonyWhen access to free and low-cost birth control is improved, the percentage of young women who leave high school before graduating falls by double digits, according to a CU Boulder study that followed 170,000 women for up to seven years.

The study focused on the Colorado Family Planning Initiative (CFPI), a 2009 program that widely expanded access to contraception across the state.

It found that high school graduation rates increased from 88% before CFPI was implemented to 92% after, and about half of that gain was due to the program. Improvements in rates among Hispanic women were even greater. In all, the program decreased the percentage of young women who left school before graduating by 14%.

Put another way, an additional 3,800 Colorado women born between 1994 and 1996 received a high school diploma by age 20 to 22 as a result of CFPI.