Poverty Can't Be Blamed for Teenage Pregnancy

USA TODAY, January 1994 | Go to article overview

Poverty Can't Be Blamed for Teenage Pregnancy


Teenage mothers may be no worse off than their sisters and friends who wait until they are older to have children, maintains Stanford University law professor Deborah Rhode, co-editor of The Politics of Pregnancy: Adolescent Sexuality and Public Policy. In fact, some women may find there are advantages to having a baby at age 17 or 18, compared to 20 or 22. This disputes conventional american wisdom that teenage motherhood is emotionally and financially ruinous.

While it's true that most teenage mothers and their offspring are poor, delaying childbearing, by itself, does not necessarily help poor women escape poverty. "Some of the negative consequences that have been attributed to teenage pregnancy in this country appear also to be partial causes."

Recent studies suggest, for example, that "most young mothers leave school before becoming pregnant, rather than the converse, and that mothers who give birth while in school are as likely to graduate as their peers. It's quite sobering to realize that the conventional liberal's solution to teenage pregnancy--encourage women to stay in school and ensure they have a high school education--doesn't necessarily translate into greater self-sufficiency later in live.

"There is also a common perception in this country that teenage pregnancy is somehow a problem of minority groups, but white teenagers account for 68% of all adolescent births in the U.S. and over half the births to unmarried mothers." African- and Hispanic-Americans have higher rates of teenage childbearing, as well as of poverty associated with it. …

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