Jamie Lynn Spears and Bristol Palin heightened the profile of teen pregnancies this year. The pictures they painted were involved families, plenty of pre-natal care, and most importantly, involved boyfriends. The reality is quite a bit different though for most pregnant teens. That reality often involves poverty, lost opportunities and a cost to taxpayers in the vicinity of 7.6 billion dollars a year. That amount reflects the lower taxes that most of these teens or their families can afford to pay and the extra social services costs they incur. The taxpayer is the savior. Still on the wall when it comes to choice?
The economist, who compiled this figure, also offered the fact that these teen births have widespread and substantial negative effects, especially for the teen moms. These moms are more likely to be in foster care, less likely to graduate high school. The female babies born are more likely to have teen births themselves, and the male children are more likely to end up in jail. Most of the 40,000 teen births that occur yearly in the US are to unwed mothers on welfare. So the Spears and Palin stories are not the typical scenario that the average teen pregnancy represents. And unfortunately both Sears and Palin's family situation suggests that it's not only possible, but cool to be a pregnant teen.
Participants at a recent forum on teen pregnancy in Chicago want the hoopla over these two high profile teens to not be a squandered opportunity to raise issues and concern and speak nationally about the realities of teen motherhood. They also feel that the slight rise in teen pregnancy numbers since 2005 and the unbelievable dollar amount now known to finance these pregnancys, should persuade policymakers to be more aggressive in figuring out ways to reduce teen births. These are "kids having kids" but if the emotional and suffering component is not sufficient then the cost in dollars should spur some action.
Other spokespersons have blatantly come out and said, "It's a double standard: if you're a poor kid of color it's (teen pregnancy) bad; if you are white and affluent, it's (teen pregnancy) not so bad." (Linda Lausell Bryant, director of a New York non-profit).
Published On: October 27, 2008