The United States has the highest rates of teen pregnancy and births in the western industrialized world. Teen pregnancy costs the United States at least $7 billion annually.Thirty-four percent of young women become pregnant at least once before they reach the age of 20 -- about 820,000 a year. Eight in ten of these teen pregnancies are unintended and 79 percent are tounmarried teens.
While the facts are clear, the issues of teenage pregnancy are complicated by our conflicting attitudes and behaviors. Talk of sex fills the airwaves; younger and younger girls areportrayed as sex objects; and sex is used to sell everything from clothing to news. Yet we are shocked at the rising numbers of teens who are sexually active. If we are truly concerned about the welfareof babies, children and adolescents, we must move beyond the moral panic and denial that so often distort the discussion. Designing effective solutions will require the thoughtful separation of fact,assumption and wishful thinking and an honest acknowledgment that much is still not fully understood about the causes of teenage pregnancy.
The teen birth rate has declined slowly but steadily from1991 to 2002 with an overall decline of 30 percent for those aged 15 to 19. These recent declines reverse the 23-percent rise in the teenage birth rate from 1986 to 1991. The largest decline since1991 by race was for black women. The birth rate for black teens aged 15 to 19 fell 42 percent between 1991 to 2002. Hispanic teen birth rates declined 20 percent between 1991 and 2002. The rates of bothHispanics and blacks, however, remain higher than for other groups. Hispanic teens now have the highest teenage birth rates. Most teenagers giving birth before 1980 were married whereas most teensgiving birth today are unmarried.
Estate the Problem
The younger a teenaged girl is when she has sex for the first time, the more likely she is to have had unwanted or non-voluntary sex and get...