Poverty, School and Employment
Teenage childbearing is associated
with adverse consequences for young mothers and their children, many of which can be
attributed to the economically and socially disadvantaged situations in which most
adolescent mothers live before becoming pregnant. Often, the disadvantaged backgrounds of
young women contribute to poor school performance, weak social skills and low earnings
potential, and also increase the likelihood that a young woman will become pregnant as a
teen. Teenage childbearing
tends to exacerbate the problems of
poverty and family instability many young women already face. Early childbearing
contributes to lower levels of educational attainment for the adolescent mother and her
child, high rates of single parenthood, larger family sizes and increased reliance on
Connections like these too often are
overlooked in efforts to prevent teen pregnancy. A deeper examination of the external
influences on adolescents who become involved in a pregnancy is required in order to fully
comprehend and effectively respond to the complexity of teen pregnancy.
The Minnesota Organization on
Adolescent Pregnancy, Prevention and Parenting developed this series of fact sheets to
draw the links between adolescent pregnancy and other social issues that are relevant to
the lives of Minnesota teens. These fact sheets are based on published research and
reports, and data available from state agencies. Data is national or, where noted,
specific to Minnesota. References are listed at the end of this document.
Poverty is the factor most strongly
related to teen pregnancy. State comparisons show that states with higher poverty rates
also have higher proportions of non-marital births to adolescents (Moore 1995). In
addition, some researchers have suggested that high poverty rates in the United States
account for the fact that US teen birth rates are the highest of any industrialized nation
(MacFarlane 1997; Males 1994).
High rates of youth poverty precede
high rates of teenage childbearing. Teens residing in communities with high rates of
poverty, welfare use, and single-mother households are at higher risk for early pregnancy.
Teen parents are therefore disproportionately concentrated in poor communities
characterized by inferior housing, high crime, poor schools and limited health services
(Maynard 1996; Wilson 1996).
|Sixty percent of teenagers who become
pregnant are living in poverty at the time of the birth (Alan Guttmacher Institute 1994).
More than 40 percent of teenage mothers report living in poverty by age 27 (Moore 1995).|
|Young women with below average academic
skills coming from families with below poverty incomes are about five times more likely to
become teenage mothers than those with solid skills and above average family incomes
|Among all unwed teenage mothers, less
than one third receive any financial support from the nonresident fathers of their
children (Congressional Budget Office 1990).|
|Poverty status is one of the strongest
predictors of low birth weight, especially among teenage mothers (Alan Guttmacher
The Personal Responsibility and Work
Opportunity Act of 1996 replaces Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) with
Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), a single cash welfare block grant. Because
of the well-documented association between teen pregnancy and welfare, much of the recent
welfare reform debate and many aspects of the new law focus on teen pregnancy. The Act
contains a number of provisions, which require states to come up with goals, plans and
actions to reduce out of wedlock births, and teen pregnancy (Tullman 1996). The Statewide
Minnesota Family Investment Program is Minnesota's version of the national TANF program.
It includes a five year time limit on benefits and a mandatory work/education requirement.
|Overall, studies have found that larger
AFDC payments in states are weakly associated with higher rates of out-of-wedlock teen
childbearing among whites, but this association does not hold for African American or
Latino teens. No correlation has been found between the level of welfare benefits and
additional births to teen mothers (Moore 1995).|
|In 1995, women under the age of 20 made
up only seven percent of AFDC cases; however, over time, the role of teen parents is
significant. Forty-two to fifty-five percent of AFDC households are headed by women who
started families as a teenager (HHS/ACF/OFA 1996, GAO/HEHS 1994).|
|More than 70% of unmarried adolescent
mothers will receive cash assistance within five years of giving birth and 40% will remain
dependent on the welfare system for 5 years or longer (Maynard 1996).|
|In Minnesota in 1997, 53% of AFDC cases
began with a birth to a teen, and 55% of all children on AFDC were in families that began
with a teen birth (MDHS 1997).|
|Based on the average cost per case,
approximately $8.6 million in public assistance (AFDC and MFIP) was spent in March 1997 on
families that began with a teen birth. This amont accounts for 43% of the total public
assistance provided to all Minnesota families (MDHS 1997).|
Success in School
Recent research examining the relationship
between educational attainment and teenage pregnancy has addressed background factors like
individual, family, and neighborhood characteristics to better explain the relationship.
These studies have confirmed that teenage pregnancy adversely affects level of educational
attainment. However, it has been found that young women and men often drop out of high
school before they become parents, and that school attendance and achievement before
conception are the best predictors of school attendance and achievement after delivery of
the child (Stevens-Simon 1995). In terms of educational achievement, dropping out, rather
than having a baby, appears to be the key factor that sets adolescent mothers behind their
peers. Adolescent mothers who stay in school are almost as likely to graduate (73%) as
women who do not become mothers while in high school (77%) (The Alan Guttmacher Institute
|Thirty-two percent of adolescent
mothers complete high school by the time they reach their late 20s, compared with nearly
73% of women who delay childbearing until after age 20 or 21 (Maynard 1996). |
|About 40% of all adolescent mothers who
drop out of high school attain a GED certificate by age 30 (Maynard 1996).|
|Among whites, African Americans, and
Latinos, childbearing before age 20 significantly reduces schooling attained by almost
three years (Klepinger 1995).|
|Young women who begin childbearing
after age 20 are much more likely than teenage mothers to attend college (Klepinger 1995).
|The more years of education a mother
completes, the older her daughter is likely to be at first sexual intercourse (Postrado
|Teens with high educational
expectations are less likely than their peers with lower expectations to initiate sexual
intercourse (Postrado 1997).|
|Adolescent fathers are less likely to
graduate from high school than older fathers (Maynard 1996).|
|Children of teen parents perform worse
in school than children of older parents. They are 50% more likely to repeat a grade,
perform significantly worse on developmental tests, and are more likely to drop out of
school (Maynard 1996).|
Failure to complete high school prevents
young mothers from going on to post-secondary education and from participating in many
vocational training programs (Stevens-Simon 1995). Limited educational achievement
combined with low basic skills and limited job experience means fewer employment
opportunities and lower wages for teenage mothers (Maynard 1996; Zill and Nord 1994). In
addition, teenage mothers have more children on average and are less likely to be married
than women who delay childbearing. As a result, they must stretch their limited incomes to
support more children (The National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy 1997).
Over the last two decades, the US
economy has lost most of its low-skill, high-paying manufacturing jobs, restricting career
opportunities for low-income youths, the population most likely to be involved in early
pregnancies (Wilson 1996; Males 1994). As the qualifications for good jobs rise, teenage
mothers who fail to finish school have more difficulty finding gainful employment (The
Alan Guttmacher Institute 1994).
|Higher levels of income and employment
for women are related to lower rates of non-marital childbearing (Moore 1995).|
|From 1960 to 1990, the percentage of
teen births outside of marriage increased from 15% to 68%. This 68% of young mothers
assume primary responsibility for their families financial support (Maynard 1996).|
|Fifteen to twenty percent of never
married teens have child support awards. Of those, only about three-fourths receive any
payments and the payments they do receive are only about one-third of the payments due
(Congressional Budget Office 1990).|
|Although the incomes of teen mothers
are lower during their first 13 years of parenthood compared to those who delay
childbearing (until age 20 or 21), they make up for this through increased employment and
earnings by the time they reach their mid to late 20s (Hotz 1997).|
|Among whites, one-fourth of teenage
mothers had family incomes below the poverty level, compared with less than 1 in 10 of
those who delayed childbearing (Brown and Eisenberg 1995).|
|Adolescent fathers earn, on average,
$4,732 less annually than those who delay fathering until age 20 or 21 and are therefore
not as prepared to contribute financially to the well-being of their families (Maynard
|Nearly 30 % of children born to
adolescent mothers are neither working nor looking for work nor attending school by the
time they are 24 years old, in contrast to 17% of children born to mothers who have
delayed childbearing (Maynard 1996).|
In summary, adolescent pregnancy
results in significant challenges for the teen mother, father and their child. It is
important to understand the connections between issues like poverty, welfare reliance, low
educational achievement and employment options in the life of an adolescent parent. These
factors are often part of the lives of young women before they have a child and are
further compounded by the birth of a child. Understanding these connections can provide
insight when developing teen pregnancy prevention programs or when seeking out better ways
to support teen parents.
MOAPPP can help by providing the
resources that you need to help Minnesota teens. Contact the MOAPPP InfoExchange at (612)
644-1447 or toll-free in Minnesota at (800) 657-3697.
The Alan Guttmacher Institute. 1994. Sex
and America's Teenagers. New York: The Alan Guttmacher Institute.
Brindis, C. 1997. "Adolescent Pregnancy
Prevention for Hispanic Youth" The Prevention Researcher.
Brown, S.S., and L. Eisenberg (eds.). 1995. The
Best Intentions: Unintended Pregnancy and the Well-Being of Children and Families.
Washington, DC: National Institute of Medicine.
Congressional Budget Office. 1990. Sources
of support for teenage parents. Washington, DC: US Government Printing Office.
HHS/ACF/OFA. 1996. Aid to Families with
Dependent Children: Characteristics and Financial Circumstances, October 1994-September
1995. Washington, DC: US Government Printing Office.
GAO/HEHS 94-115. 1994. AFDC Women Who Gave
Birth As Teenagers. Washington, DC: US Government Printing Office.
Hotz, V.J., S.W. McElroy, and S. Sanders.
1997. "Mothers: Effects of early childbearing on the lives of the mothers" in Kids
Having Kids: Economic Costs and Social Consequences of Teen Pregnancy, R. Maynard
(ed.). Washington, DC: Urban Institute Press.
Klepinger, D.H., S. Lundberg, and R.D.
Plotnick. 1995. "Adolescent Fertility and the Educational Attainment of Young
Women." Family Planning Perspectives, 27(1): 23-27.
MacFarlane, R. 1997. "Summary of
Adolescent Pregnancy Research: Implications for Prevention." The Prevention
Males, M. 1994. "Poverty, Rape,
Adult/Teen Sex: Why 'Pregnancy Prevention' Programs Don't Work". Phi Delta Kappan:
Maynard, R. (ed). 1996. Kids Having Kids:
A Robin Hood Foundation Special Report on the Costs of Adolescent Childbearing. New
York: The Robin Hood Foundation.
Moore, K. 1995. "Nonmarital Childbearing
in the United States." Report to Congress on Out-of-Wedlock Childbearing. US
Department of Health and Human Services.
Minnesota Department of Human Services.
Reports and Forecasts Division. 1997.
The National Campaign to Prevent Teen
Pregnancy. 1997. Whatever Happened to Childhood? The Problem of Teen Pregnancy in the
United States. Washington, DC: The National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy.
Postrado, L.T., F. L. Weiss, and H.J.
Nicholson. 1997. "Prevention of Sexual Intercourse for Teen Women Aged 12 to
14." The Prevention Researcher.
Stevens-Simon, C., and R. Lowy. 1995.
"Teenage Childbearing: An Adaptive Strategy for the Socioeconomically Disadvantaged
or a Strategy for Adapting to Socioeconomic Disadvantage?" Archives of Pediatric
and Adolescent Medicine. (149): 912-915.
Tullman, J. 1996. "Teenage Pregnancy
Provision in the Welfare Reform Bill" The National Campaign to Prevent Teen
Wilson, W.J. 1996. When work disappears:
The world of the new urban poor. New York: Knopf.
Zill, N., and C.W. Nord. 1994. Running in
Place: How American Families Are Faring in a Changing Economy and an Individualistic
Society. Washington, DC: Child Trends.]
Compiled by Peggy OHalloran