Teenage Pregnancy and Poverty

 Teenage pregnancy and poverty may be linked in many people’s minds, but that doesn’t mean they know the facts. This article summarizes the research that helps establish what the relationship between teenage pregnancy and poverty really is.

Two Connections Between Teenage Pregnancy and Poverty

When considering how teenage pregnancy and poverty relate it is important to consider two distinct but important connections. First, it is important to consider poverty as a factor among others in leading to teenage pregnancy. Second, it is essential to consider poverty as an outcome of teenage pregnancy, not only for the pregnant teen, but for the teen father, the child, and other children that may be born to the teen mother subsequently.

Poverty as a Contributing Factor to Teenage Pregnancy

The connection between poverty rates and teen pregnancy rates seems inescapable even when it isn’t pointed out.  In a 2010 report using 2006 data, this is the top three and their rankings in terms of both teenage pregnancy and poverty. Texas, the leader in teen pregnancy rates, is ninth in the nation in the poverty rankings. New Mexico is second in teenage pregnancy rates, and third in poverty rankings. Mississippi is third in teen pregnancies, and the highest rate of poverty in the country.

In 2005, New Mexico had been first, Nevada second, and Arizona third in  teenage pregnancy rates; Texas first, New Mexico second, and Mississippi third in birthrate, and New York first, New Jersey second, and Nevada third in the abortion rate for young women 15 to 19. While the pregnancy rates among teens had been declining, and the 2005 were the lowest in over 30 years, 2006 saw an increase, as reported by the Gutmacher Institute.

Poverty as a Result of Teenage Pregnancy

It has been reported that only a third of teen mothers achieve a high school diploma and that teen father are apt to finish fewer years of school than men who become fathers when they are older, leaving both parents less equipped than they might be to earn a living. Children of teen parents had been found to have poorer school performance, and girls who were born as the result of a teen pregnancy were found to have a 22% greater than average risk of becoming teen mothers. Additionally the National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy has reported that a minimum of 75% of teen mothers who are unmarried will be on welfare within 5 years of the birth of their first child.

This view is countered by a study by University of Pennsylvania’s Frank Furstenburg, who reported that women raised in poverty and bearing children later were not much more likely to escape poverty than impoverished teens who became pregnant. The study also concludes that there is little difference educationally and economically between girls raised in poverty who become mothers during their teen years and those who become mothers later.