Contraception used less by minority youth

The news: In February, President Barack Obama announced “accommodation” to faith-based organizations by directing their health insurance companies to cover the costs for the new requirement that contraception be covered under insurance. Behind the news: Minority teens are more likely to have unprotected sex than white teens in Illinois, according to The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, a nonprofit aimed at reducing pregnancy rates in single youth. In 2009, the latest year for which the data are available, at least 30.5 percent of Latino and 29.8 percent of African-American teens did not use condoms or birth control pills, while at least 6.4 percent of white teens did not. Pam Sutherland, vice president for public policy at Planned Parenthood Illinois, said many African-American women cannot afford contraceptive care because they are underinsured. The out-of-pocket price for birth control can cost anywhere from $700 to $1,500 a year, and Planned Parenthood often has to subsidize that cost for young people in need of contraception, she said.

LGBT youth lack support

The news: A March study in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, based on experiences of 246 lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender youth around Chicago, found that low social support and victimization among LGBT youth contribute to the higher risk of suicidal thoughts and self-harm. Behind the news: In Chicago Public Schools, Gay-Straight Alliance, an extracurricular club aimed at promoting a safe academic environment for LGBT students, is more likely to be found in high schools with a higher percentage of white students. Of the 157 CPS schools serving grades 9 and above, 20 are more than 10 percent white, and 13 of them—or 65 percent—have a Gay Straight Alliance, while only 20 percent of the remaining schools do, according to the Illinois Safe Schools Alliance. David Fischer, program manager for the Illinois Safe Schools Alliance, said this could be because underfunded schools, many in minority communities, don’t have enough resources to start and sustain the club. Brian Mustanski, co-author of the March study and professor of medical social science at Northwestern University, said that racial minorities may be more likely to experience LGBT-related victimization, which would increase their need for support.

Chicago’s crime conundrum

The news: In January, a 24-year-old man was charged with arson—one of eight “index crime” categories tracked nationwide by the FBI—after he allegedly set off a rash of car and building fires across Los Angeles. Behind the news: Overall, index crimes, including arson, are down in Chicago, but in the past five years, four police districts on the North and Northwest sides posted an increase in at least four of the index crime categories. Despite the increases, those police districts combined accounted for only 12 percent of the city’s most violent crimes last year. Meanwhile, six of the highest crime areas, on the South and West sides of the city, experienced large decreases in the number of reported crimes. Yet, those districts alone still accounted for 43 percent of all sexual assaults, murders, armed robberies and other violent crimes in 2011.

Food stamp rates vary racially

The news: The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People criticized presidential candidate Newt Gingrich for saying that African-American communities should “demand paychecks and not be satisfied with food stamps.”
Behind the news: Nationally, far more white people participate in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program than African Americans, but the opposite is true for Illinois. On the national level, white people make up 48.3 percent of the program’s participants compared with 29.7 percent for African Americans. In Illinois, 45.4 percent of participants are African American, and 22.9 percent are white. Evelyn Brodkin, a political scientist and associate professor at the University of Chicago, said the disparity on the national level is connected in part to a complicated application process that puts minorities with less education and deeper poverty at a disadvantage. “It shouldn’t take a college degree to figure out how to get food stamps,” Brodkin said.