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Good news in the battle against poverty

Melvin B. Miller
Good news in the battle against poverty
“Motherhood can wait!!!” (Photo: Dan Drew)

As the school year begins, there is a noteworthy decline in a factor that contributes substantially to high school dropouts. The incidence of teenage pregnancy has been declining for the past two decades. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the birth rate for teens 15–19 years old was 26.6 births per 1,000 in 2013. That was 57 percent less than the rate of 61.8 births per 1,000 in 1991.

During this period, the birth rate for black teens declined by 63 percent. This is an important economic development because about 90 percent of teen mothers are unmarried, and only about 40 percent graduate from high school. Consequently, a great number of young mothers lack the educational skills to provide for themselves and their newborn.

The CDC research found that it costs taxpayers about $1,700 per year for each child born to a teenage mother. The decline in births saved about $12 billion in government costs in 2010. Efforts to prevent unplanned teen pregnancy have not yet succeeded in reducing the rate in the U.S. to that of other industrial nations. Japan, Switzerland and Denmark have teen birth rates under 5 per 100,000. Even with the reduction, eight states in the U.S. still have rates above 40 per 1,000.

In a society that has lost its ethical bearings, it seems impractical to rely on moral assertions to prevent teenage pregnancy. A more effective strategy might be to educate young girls into a profound awareness of their self-worth and provide an education program so they will be self-sufficient. With a heightened awareness of promising employment opportunities, perhaps they will be encouraged to postpone motherhood.

Despite the progress, we still have a long way to go to meet the international standards.

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