Teen Pregnancy: Yet Another Economic Drain

Raising a baby while finishing high school doesn’t exactly seem like it would set young mothers up for financial success. Between daycare costs, diapers, doctor appointments, and various other baby-related necessities, it’s easy to understand how teen moms become easily overwhelmed.

It’s not just financial stress, either. I can’t imagine the mental, emotional and even physical pressures young mothers must be under. They’ve barely crossed the threshold into adulthood themselves, and they’re expected to be responsible for another person? While — cross your fingers — finishing high school and college? I’m not exactly sure how they manage to cope.

Unfortunately, a recent report by the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy confirms that they may not be coping very well, at least when it comes to finishing school and subsequently securing quality employment. Granted, the frequency of teen pregnancy in the U.S. has fallen 42 percent since 1990, but according to the NCPTUP report, roughly 30 percent of females still get pregnant before their 20th birthday — the highest rate among developed nations.

Additionally, 30 percent of female high-school dropouts (38 percent and 36 percent respectively for Black and Latino girls) point to their pregnancies and/or the stresses they face as new mothers as the primary factor preventing them from finishing school. These numbers seem further exacerbated in school districts with low performance records and high dropout rates in general. Some young mothers go on to complete a GED, but roughly another third of teen moms fail to earn either a diploma or a GED, and not even 2 percent of teens who give birth before they turn 18 go on to earn a college degree before the age of 30.

Most people would agree that it is becoming increasingly harder for anyone to get a good paying job that allows them to maintain a decent quality of life without some measure of higher education. It seems that even young adults with master’s degrees are having trouble securing employment for a fair wage, let alone a high-school dropout constrained by the pressures of new parenthood. Obviously, the inability to find adequate employment has direct economic consequences for teen mothers and their children.

Apparently, college graduates earn roughly $1 million more than high school dropouts, and children of teen mothers perform at lower academic levels and have less developed social skills upon entering kindergarten. Not exactly great prospects for successful academic and professional careers. NCPTUP suggests, however, that the ripples reach much further than young mothers’ immediate families. From their recent report:

According to the Alliance for Excellent Education, it is estimated that…a single high school dropout costs the nation approximately $260,000 in lost earnings, taxes, and productivity. Put another way, if students who dropped out of the Class of 2011 had graduated from high school, the nation’s economy would likely benefit from nearly $154 billion in additional income over the course of their lifetimes.

Not only do high school dropouts withhold potential money from the national market, but teen pregnancies also put a strain on the country’s economic resources. In 2008 alone, resources for teen parents accounted for $10.9 billion of local, state and federal taxes.

What to do

NCPTUP cites several examples of school districts, particularly low performing ones, using a combination of abstinence and contraception to bring down teen pregnancy rates even further. The one thing they seem to highlight the most is the necessary collaboration between schools, government task-forces, and community organizations. It seems more heads really are better than one when attacking a multifaceted problem with far-reaching economic and social consequences for us all.

What do you think?

Related Stories:

Teen Sues School For Announcing She Was Pregnant At Assembly

LA County Schools, Planned Parenthood Team Up to Battle Teen Pregnancy

Does Reality TV Encourage Teen Pregnancy?

Photo Credit: flequi via Flickr


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Stephanie Warm
Stephanie Warm5 years ago

Also, Megan - I congratulate you on all of your success and how things have turned out so well for you. But, as others have pointed out, I want to remind you that many teenage girls are not as strong/resourceful as you managed to be, and having a child could be a big mistake (I'm reluctant to use the word "mistake", as I don't want to refer to a human being as such, but it's for lack of a better word). Many teenagers (most?) have not reached the maturity level needed to care for a child. (As I say this, though, I question myself, given that in past centuries, teenage pregnancy was the norm). I think of myself. There is no way that I could have cared for a child as a teenager. As stated in my previous post, I am 28 now, and I know that I still have not reached the maturity level needed to care successfully for a child. (By the way, I was a little bit bothered by your statement on one of your posts about 25-year-olds still living at home, as if that's a bad thing. I still live with my parents, and I don't think that there's anything wrong with that. I plan to look into moving out probably within the next year or two.) Keep in mind that brain development continues until early/mid 20's - so, we're not really "adult" until that point. Again, I'm not here to criticize your decision to keep your children - clearly, it was the right decision for you. And, perhaps you were mature for your age. Then again, maybe having the experience of becoming pregnant accelerated your maturity level

Stephanie Warm
Stephanie Warm5 years ago

Megan N. - don't assume that kids know as much as you say they know (yes, I agree that some kids know a lot, but not all kids). Plus, there's no need to call them "stupid" or say that they are "lying". I would say that I am far from "stupid", but I knew absolutely nothing about contraception until I learned about it in 9th grade - at which point it was still kind of beyond me, as sex seemed very far off in the future. Fortunately, I wasn't sexually active in high school, so I never had to learn a hard lesson. But, think about others who may have been like me, who didn't magically know everything about sex and pregnancy prevention. I didn't even have the internet until I was in 8th grade, nor did most of my peers, so I couldn't have acquired much information prior to that online. As for TV & movies, sexual jokes went over my head. And, I didn't even start to notice condoms and other such things in pharmacies until recently - and I'm 28 now. It never occurred to me to look. So anyway, I think that comprehensive sex education, offered at multiple points throughout kids'/teenagers' schooling, is important. Plus, I do think that parents should educate their children. It needs to be a collaborative effort.

Danuta Watola
Danuta W5 years ago

Thank you for the post

Miranda Lyon
Miranda Lyon5 years ago

I wish it were true that all young people got full and correct information, but unfortunately they don't. TV and the internet are a welter of teenagers sharing misinformation, too.

Teaching grades 4-8, I have had a sexually active young lady inform me that she couldn't get pregnant because she always had sex standing up. I've overheard any number of conversations between students in which they were sharing the most appalling misinformation about supposed methods of birth control and STDs.

Girls need a lot of support in order to resist boyfriends who don't want to use condoms. Girls and boys both need a lot of support to develop self-respect and the ability to say clearly what they do and do not feel ready to do or want to do at all. TV shows and the internet are not going to provide what's needed here.

MEGAN N5 years ago

@ everyone who is on about sex ed...
Unless a kid has been living in a bubble from about age 6 on they know EXACTLY how babies are made and how to prevent them. With TV and the internet, not to mention what they tell each other they are only going to get some basic mechanics from school. I remember Sex Ed when I was in middle school. We were all very excited because we thought we would be getting some forbidden information (and my school actually had a VERY complete program) but they didn't cover anything we didn't already know. Also anyone who has ever walked into a corner drug store or the pharmacy section of a grocery store can find condoms easily enough. So it has nothing really to do about educating them. If they claim they didn't know they could get pregnant or how to prevent it THEY ARE EITHER VERY STUPID OR LYING! And few are really that stupid. The bigger issue would be what the parents are doing while their kids are out making babies. Parents who think their child will not pull this kind of thing are the real problem. Parents need to accept that their little angels are no longer perfect and TALK TO THEM!!! Tell them what will happen if they were to have sex and possibly make a baby. Then they need to watch them, know who their friends are and where they are when they are out. It is not up to the schools or the government to raise these kids and what they can do by teaching sex ed isn't really going to make any difference because the kids usually know m

Deborah Vitek
Deborah Vitek5 years ago

Yeah, just teach abstinence, it works so perfectly. Everyone needs to get their heads out of the sand and understand that teenagers have ALWAYS been having sex and getting pregnant. Either make it "okay" with lots of support or teach birth control and abortion.

It aggravates me to no end when time, money and effort are spent on non-problems which are non-problems because obvious and adequate solutions are readily available but not utilized. So, make "sex" education life education and start it in the first grade including health,nutrition, how to budget and run a household, etc., etc. and we would have an infinitely happier, smarter and more productive population.

MEGAN N5 years ago

@ Beth

That makes a bit more sense to me then what I thought was a blanket statement. But as a former wild child and a teen mom I implore you to do whatever you can to encourage this girl to be a good mother and self sufficient adult. You may fail and she may end up a loser after all but if no one does anything to push her in the right direction then everyone (but mostly the innocent baby she has chosen to add to the world) will lose. It doesn't take much, there were very few positive voices for me to listen to when I was in the place this girl is now. I had moved in with my boyfriend at 16 and pretty much done whatever I wanted for the 2 years before I got pregnant. It would have been very reasonable for people to write me off.

But still there were those few who said - "so now your having a baby, guess its time you grew up". They told me to get a job, and find a program where I could go to school and work at the same time. They helped me with information I didn't have and gave me hope that I could do well for myself still. This was all over the course of about a month and once I had started on that positive path I was good to go. So if you care about this girl at all or if you don't want to be paying for her and her child for the next 18 years then give her a push if you can. You never know she might surprise you. You might be the positive and hopeful voice that sticks in her head and changes her life.

Leia P.
Leia P.5 years ago

so sad