U.S. Teen Pregnancy and Births
In an era where the call for women empowerment and gender equality has reached fever pitch, the United States is dealing one of the problems that has continued to erode the gains made so far. Teen pregnancy and motherhood significantly affect teenage mothers’ chances of finishing high school and consequently furthering their education. In the developed world, the U.S. leads in teenage pregnancy rates with up to half of these teenage mothers failing to complete high school. While the rate teenage pregnancies and births are on declining trend over the past years, there are persistent geographical and racial disparities. African American, Indian American and Latino teenagers are more like to be get pregnant and be mothers than their Asian and Caucasian age mates (Kearney & Levine, 2012).
- Comparing teenage pregnancies and births in the U.S. and other developed countries
- With a teen pregnancy and motherhood rate of 22.3 per every 1,000 teenager between the age of 15 and 19 years in 2015, the United States is well ahead of its closest development peers in the Western world. This also translates to the highest rates of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) infections.
- The 229,715 teenage births recorded in 2015 marked a drop from 2014 when 24.2 births were recorded for every 1,000 girls below 20 years. However, the country has recorded a general drop in the number of teenage pregnancy rates. The rate stood at 61.8 births in 1991.
- More alarming is the teen rebirth rates which accounted for a sixth of all teenage births for 2014 (U.S. Department of Health and Human Sciences, 2016).
- Racial, Ethnic and Geographical Disparities
- There are geographical disparities in the rate of teen births with Arkansas, Oklahoma, Mississippi, New Mexico, Texas and West Virginia recording the highest birth rates in 2014. On the other hand, Connecticut, Massachusetts and New Hampshire recorded some of the lowest rates (U.S. Department of Health and Human Sciences, 2016).
- The disparities are also evident across various races or ethnicities with 43 births per 1,000 females recorded for white Hispanics under 20 years compared to 23 among Asians. The rates are even higher among American Indian and African American teenage girls within the same age bracket (Kearney & Levine, 2012).
- Predisposing factors to teenage pregnancy
- Factors that increase chances of teenage pregnancy include low parental education levels, poverty and poor performance in school.
- Additionally, studies have shown that teenagers from single-parent families are more susceptible to teenage pregnancies (Kearney & Levine, 2012).
- Importance of tackling and preventing teenage pregnancies
- There are long and short economic, health and social implications of teenage pregnancy. With up to 50 percent of these young women failing to finish high school, life opportunities for these women reduces significantly.
- Additionally, teenage mothers are more likely to suffer from health-related complications.
- Economically, the government spends or losses billions of dollars in teenage pregnancy-related cases including cost of foster care for their kids and lost income from tax as a result of unemployment.
- Teenage pregnancy is also associated with poor quality of life for both the teenage mothers and their kids.
- Moreover, there is a correlation between teenage pregnancies and incarceration rates among teenage mothers and their kids (Kearney & Levine, 2012; Hoffman, 2008).
- Teenage pregnancy is a socio-economic issue with health implications that the United States has invested billions of dollars to tackle.
- Despite the progresses made in reducing the rates, the country still leads teenage pregnancies, births and prevalence of STIs across the developed countries.
- Additionally, there are significant disparities in prevalence levels across various geographical locations and races.
Hoffman, S. D. (2008). Kids Having Kids: Economic Costs and Social Consequences of Teen Pregnancy. Washington, DC: The Urban Institute Press.
Kearney, M. S. & Levine, P. B. (2012). Why is the teen birth rate in the United States so high and why does it matter? J Econ Perspect. 26(2):141- 66.
U.S. Department of Health and Human Sciences. (2016). Trends in Teen Pregnancy and Childbearing. HHS.gov, Office of Adolescent Health. Retrieved from: https://www.hhs.gov/ash/oah/adolescent-development/reproductive-health-and-teen-pregnancy/teen-pregnancy-and-childbearing/trends/index.html