Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Teenage pregnancy - good or bad?

The CDC report on births garnered attention for showing an increase in teenage pregnancies and births. While this my get headlines, it is not necessarily a bad thing.
The first issue is the arbitrary line drawn. A woman who gives birth the day before her 20th birthday is 'bad'. Wait one more day and the birth would be considered fine. 20 is a rather arbitrary age that does not hold significant meaning of societal responsibility (like 16, 18 or 21), nor does it mark a significant change in human development. Setting a line at 18 or high school graduation may be more appropriate.
Furthermore, the data actual shows a decrease in births to those younger than 15, while the heaviest increase was in the 18-19 group. Perhaps this means a decrease in teen pregnancies is being masked by high-school sweethearts deciding to start their families at a young age.
A better meter would be using unwanted vs. wanted pregnancies. If a couple get married as teenagers and want to have a baby, a pregnancy would be desired. If a 20 year old college student accidentally gets pregnant, that would not be desired. Unwed pregnancy would be a good indicator of 'unwanted' (though the lack of emphasis on marriage in today's culture could mean some of these 'unwed' births were actually desired.) For younger teenagers, unwed births have been going down. For 18 and 19 years olds they have been bouncing around in a narrow range, while for older groups they have been going up.
Another troubling part of the report is the increase in births to older women. These births tend to be much more expensive, requiring significant medical intervention. They also limit the parental involvement in the child's life. A family where each generation gives birth at 19 could easily have 3 generations participating in the raising of a child. A family where each generation gives birth at 39 would be unlikely to get even a second generation to help raising the child.
Younger parents are much more likely to have assistance from grandparents. This allows them to take advantage of child raising experience, while also having the youthful strength needed to care for the child. The child of a 'teenage' birth could actually be much better off than the child of a 'mature' birth.

End of college football season

College football season ended with its usual whimper. The final BCS game is so far removed from the regular season that it seems to lose its power. Some teams play their last game in November, and the BCS championship game isn't until the second week in January? Com'on. At many schools classes have already started for Winter Quarter.

At least, in the old bowl system there was some finality. New Years day had a bunch of bowl games that all had important implications. Now, we had TCU beating Boise State before Christmas; USC beating Penn State on New Years; Utah beating Alabama on the 2nd; and Texas beating Ohio State on the 2nd. Each of those games showcased a deserve undefeated or 1-loss team. However, none of the games had any real relationship to the others.

In the end, the Florida/Oklahoma game looked very sloppy compared to the others. If we tossed out the rankings and just looked at the games played, Utah and USC looked like the two best teams of the 'elite' bunch. But, having a big game optimized for TV helps to rake in the money. I guess it will stay, even if it means getting stuck with lesser games past they time when I care.

Saturday, January 03, 2009

PAC-10 wins bowl derby

The Pac-10 has finished its bowl season undefeated. Three of the victories were over higher ranked teams, with USC and California being the only teams favored. (Those two were also both lucky enough to get games in their own backyard.) Even looking at victories alone, the SEC is the only conference that has the potential to obtain more bowl victories. However, the SEC already has two bowl losses. More bowl teams is often a sign of a better conference. However, in this case, things are rigged somewhat against the PAC-10. The SEC has two additional teams, so there are two additional opportunities for bowl berths. The PAC-10 also plays 9 conference games (vs. 8 for all other conferences.) This means that half the teams will lose an additional game. In the SEC, this game would probably be an easy victory over a IAA cupcake. Sprinkle an extra loss on the bottom half of the SEC and you'd lose a couple of their bowl victories, making the PAC-10 appear even more dominant.

Friday, January 02, 2009

Utah beats 'Bama and the SEC makes excuses

Utah continued there stretch of bowl victories by annihilating Alabama 31-17. After 10 minutes, the game was already over, with Utah scoring 21 points. The response from the SEC seems to be to make excuses (we had our star player suspended, we weren't prepared, we had injuries) Uh, nice try. Though don't mention that they were the de facto home team, playing a few hours from home near plenty of alumni. (Probably not a lot of Utah alums in the area.) They had also played the bowl game many times before and were quite familiar with the stadium and environs. Alabama also 'supposedly' had played big teams, and should have been ready for the game. Uh huh. When it comes down to it, Utah will end the season with no loses and victories over 2 teams that should end the season in the top 10. Alabama? Well, Georgia or Mississippi may end up in the top 15. With Wyoming's victory over Tennessee, that leaves the measly mountain west at 2-0 vs. the 'powerful SEC'.
USC gives us another example of west coat bias. They lost one game in the season, a narrow road loss to a 9-4 Oregon State. Florida also had one early loss, a narrow home loss to a 9-4 Mississippi. Both Florida and USC continued by destroying the other teams on their schedule. However, USC is deemed to have 'lost its chance' due to its loss. For Florida, on the other hand, the loss is brushed away.

Why is there such a desire to pander to the SEC (And to a lessor extent the Big-12)? It probably all comes down to money. The south lives for football. High school stadiums in Texas are larger than most IAA stadiums, and probably even comparable to some IA stadiums. The south lives off football. In Alabama, Mississippi and South Carolina, the college game is the highest level of football for a population that lives for the game. These are the rapid fans that watch the games, buy the gear, and bring in the revenue. Out west? High School games are much less of a community affair. USC and UCLA may get a lot of people to games - but they are to top football teams in the nations 2nd largest city. (And USC is really good.) Other than that, you have teams like Stanford offering money back guarantees on season tickets. It only makes sense to pander to the core constituency in the south. Keep their teams up near the top so they can continue to have a strong interest and keep the revenue flowing.