We all know that teenage pregnancy is tough on the girls who have babies before they’re out of high school. Studies have shown that teenage mothers are more likely to live in poverty, not complete their education, and suffer from serious stresses and a poor quality of life. But beyond personal upheaval, teenage pregnancy exacts a cost on society too – a cost that can be measured in dollars and cents.
According to the Mississippi Economic Policy Center, an independent, non-partisan, non-profit group, babies born to teenage girls cost the state of Mississippi $154.9 million in 2009. This figure was calculated by factoring in the expenses of foster care, social services provided to low-income mothers and children, and incarceration of children born to teenage girls.
These cost figures are probably higher than in other states, because Mississippi has a teenage pregnancy rate that is nearly double the average for the entire United States. Still, Mississippi is just one state out of fifty. Extrapolating from these figures, girls having babies in the United States can easily be a multi-billion dollar expense every year.
Perhaps these economic figures, rather than individual stories of girls struggling to raise children, may finally convince policymakers that the United States needs to do much more to prevent teenage pregnancy. Rather than abstinence-only education, which conservative educators blindly believe in, schools need to teach students about how to prevent pregnancy and how to have healthy sexual relationships. But beyond talking about sex, our society needs to learn what factors put girls at risk for becoming teenage mothers – things like poverty, unstable families, and being the daughter of a teenage mother – and work to remove these barriers from girls’ lives.
Because I can think better things $154.9 million can be spent on.
Girl Museum Inc.