A Washington Post blog entry caught my attention yesterday. The entry was titled, "Do teens know the facts of life?" The fact that we would even have to address this question in the year 2012 is somewhat concerning. A variety of beliefs exists about whether education about these matters is appropriate in the home, in the school, or in some type of faith-based education setting. Regardless, the key is that there are many risks for teens that include pregnancy and all its consequences and sexually transmitted infections. So, even if a parent or adult member of the community hopes the teens in whom they have an interest will remain abstinent until marriage, the teens still need information about the "facts of life" to make decisions about avoiding those risks.
In economics, we assume that people make rational decisions with complete information. Or at least information that will give them the capacity to make a well reasoned decision. While it could be debated whether anything related to teens in sexual relations is rational, the key is that we can't even expect teens to have an opportunity to make rational decisions if they don't have information (other than perhaps abstinence because they have been taught that is the right thing to do, though many teens are not known for doing the right thing in all cases). The Washington Post blog is not written from an economic perspective but does point out that the most rational teens (among those who chose to have sex) may have been the ones who claimed not to use contraception because they would not have minded getting pregnant. While we may go on to question whether the teens understood everything about pregnancy and raising a child, at least within the context of the decision about contraception, the choice seems rational.
I could certainly see where at least some may question whether we should try to use economics to think about teens and the facts of life. However, while I realize that at the moment at which a teen would have to make a decision about contraception rationality may not be present, teens do make choices about whether to even put themselves in situations that may lead to such a moment. If it is an appropriate societal role and use of societal resources to provide more information about the facts of life (and I realize even that is debatable), then we should think about how the information can be used best to improve the rationality of decision making for teens and which decisions are most likely to be affected by rationality.
Lemon Zest, Turkish Apricot Scones
3 years ago