Non-comprehensive sex education is certainly one of the factors thought to shoulder some of the blame in regards to US teen birth rates. Such instruction preaches abstinence as the only way for adolescents to avoid unintended pregnancies while generally ignoring the benefits associated with contraceptive use. The implementation of non-comprehensive sex education programs are correlated with higher incidences of teen pregnancy.
As of 2016, about 20 out of every 1000 female American teens were bringing new lives into the world. In a vacuum, that 2% rate isn’t terrible, especially considering what it was a mere two decades ago, and the rate at which the figure is hurtling toward single digits.
What the US accounts for in GDP per capita and select human development indicators relative to similar countries, it lacks in teen birth control. That 20/1000 teen pregnancy figure, for example, is roughly twice that of France and Canada, three times that of Germany, four times that of Norway and Sweden, and five times that of Denmark, the Netherlands, and Japan. The table above displays the approximate teen female (ages 15-19) population (in thousands) in those developmentally-similar nations referenced above.
- If you’re a girl whose mom gave birth at 17 or younger, there’s a 33% percent chance that you’ll do the same. This, compared to only 11 percent of girls who went on to have a child in their early teens after their mom waited until her early 20s. Even after accounting for external factors, nearly one in five girls born to young teen moms will continue the trend. Contrarily, if a young woman’s mother delays her own first birth to age 20-21, her daughter’s risk of giving birth as a teen falls by almost 60 percent, from one-third to just 14 percent, as shown below.
- Per 2004 figures, educational attainment was tied strongly to the age at which a teen mom had her first child, with likelihood of completing some or all college increasing as age of first child birth was delayed.
A once-common argument used among economists in explaining teen pregnancy was that having a child as a teenager presents the parent with brighter economic prospects (through generous state welfare programs) than any other alternative. Recent data suggests the opposite is true. States with the highest teen pregnancy rates are also those with the lowest Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) funding.