On October 30 th , the National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy released national and state-by-state data on the costs of teen pregnancy in American tax dollars.1
According to the report, in 2004, the U.S. government spent approximately $9.1 billion in costs related to teen childbearing. The majority ($8.6 billion) of that amount was spent on birth-related care for girls ages 17 and younger. The report examines the costs in two categories: costs associated with teen mothers and their partners and costs associated with children born to teen mothers. The costs associated with children born to teen mothers, includes, among other things, the costs of publicly provided health care, foster care, and incarceration as adults for sons born to teen mothers. As the report notes, children of teen parents have higher costs in all of these areas than their peers born to women ages 20 and older. Teen girls who give birth are more than twice as likely as women ages 20 and older to have a child placed in foster care, to be reported for child abuse or neglect, or to have a son sent to prison.
The $9.1 billion in tax-payer money includes $1.9 billion in health care, $2.3 billion in child welfare costs, $2.1 billion for incarceration, and $2.9 billion in lower tax revenue.
The data emphasizes the costs of teen pregnancy to communities, states, and the nation. By highlighting the ramifications of the public costs for teen childbearing, this data makes the case for prevention even stronger. Investing in real teen pregnancy prevention efforts such as giving young people comprehensive sexuality education, including information on abstinence, contraception, and condoms, could improve the individual lives of teens and potentially save the public millions in tax dollars. Yet, the United States government continues to squander over a billion dollars in unproven abstinence-only-until-marriage programs that omit critical information about unintended pregnancy and prevention methods. The federal government has poured tax-payer money into such programs for almost a quarter century and, in Fiscal Year 2005 alone, it allocated $212 million through three separate funding streams for abstinence-only-until-marriage programs.2
“This report makes clear that teen pregnancy and child-bearing have significant economic and social costs,” said Sarah Brown, Director of the National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy. “Making further progress in reducing teen pregnancy will benefit taxpayers and the economy, as well as improve the educational, health, and social prospects for this generation of young people and the next.”3
The Campaign's state-by-state and national figures are an important tool for advocates, parents, educators, and policymakers in their efforts to highlight the importance of providing young people with the information and tools they need in order to prevent unintended pregnancies, protect themselves from sexually transmitted infections, and plan for their futures.
For more information on By the Numbers: The Public Costs of Teen Childbearing visit the Campaigns web site at http://www.teenpregnancy.org/costs/default.asp
For more information on abstinence-only-until-marriage programs, please visit http://www.nomoremoney.org/
- All information in this article, unless otherwise noted, comes from Saul D. Hoffman, By the Numbers: The Public Costs of Teen Childbearing (Washington, DC: The National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy, 30 October 2006), accessed 1 November 2006 <http://www.teenpregnancy.org/costs/default.asp>.
- A Brief History of Abstinence-Only-Until-Marriage Education , No More Money (2005), accessed 1 November 2006 <http://www.nomoremoney.org/historyChart.html>.
- By the Numbers: The Public Costs of Teen Childbearing ,(30 October 2006), National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy, accessed 1 November 2006 <http://www.teenpregnancy.org/>.