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Teenage Pregnancy, The Case for Prevention [PDF]

A comparison of federal expenditures and investments during fiscal years 1995 and 1996 indicates that the federal government decreased its expenditures to support families which began with a birth to a teen by $1.2 billion ($1,233,858527) actual dollars. This represents a three percent decrease. In constant 1996 dollars, the federal government decreased it expenditures to support families which began with a birth to a teen by $2.4 billion ($2,392,286,632)—a decrease of slightly more than six percent. Advocates for Youth calculates that between federal fiscal years 1995 and 1996, the federal government increased its investment in teen pregnancy prevention by about $7.5 million ($7,567,206) actual dollars—an increase of six percent. About $5 million of new investments in teen pregnancy prevention provided access to contraceptive services for sexually active teens. In constant 1996 dollars, the federal government increased its investment by $3.7 million ($3,716,891)—an increase of less than three percent.***

Advocates for Youth applauds the increase in federal investments to prevent teenage pregnancy. However, Advocates cautions that current levels of funding are not enough to bring the United States teen pregnancy and birth rates into line with those of other industrialized nations. The United States continues to have the highest teen pregnancy and birth rates in the industrialized world despite current reductions in teen pregnancy, birth, and abortion rates. The chart below compares recent birth rates in the United States, Western Europe, Canada, and Australia:2,12

The federal government should substantially increase its investment in effective teen pregnancy prevention programs. Investment in abstinence-only programs that exclude information about contraception wastes precious resources. To date, these programs have been proven ineffective in delaying the initiation of sexual intercourse and/or in decreasing sexual risk-taking behaviors among sexually active youth.

Additionally, increased investments to prevent teen pregnancy should not be made at the expense of programs to help needy families. Indeed, since research clearly demonstrates that poverty and lack of opportunity are the causes as much as the consequences of teenage pregnancy, the long-term cost to individuals and society of inadequate funding to assist needy families is clear. Reductions in federal expenditures to support families in need may lead to spiraling rates of poverty, higher school dropout rates, and increased teenage birth rates.

Recommendations

  • Increase Federal Investments in Effective Programs
    This report underscores the clear need for increased public commitment to preventing teen pregnancy. In fiscal year 1996, the federal government spent over $38.0 billion to provide services and support to families that began with a birth to a teen and invested $138.1 million275 times less—to prevent teen pregnancy. Increased federal investments in effective public health programs and strategies to reduce teen pregnancy could strengthen the welcome trends in lowered rates of adolescent pregnancy, abortion, and birth and could lessen the serious causes and consequences associated with too-early pregnancy and childbearing. Moreover, federal investments could reduce the percentage of teens requiring support in the future.
  • Focus on Effective Prevention Strategies
    Adolescents need teen pregnancy prevention strategies and programs that are based on the best, most effective practices as determined by evaluation and research. Effective prevention strategies include:
    • Accurate, balanced, and realistic sexuality education
    • Youth development
    • Confidential, low-cost access to contraceptive services.
  • Continue Support for Needy Families
    While the federal government should increase its funding to prevent teenage pregnancy, the increased investments should not be achieved by cutting expenditures to support families in need. Because poverty and lack of hope for a productive future are the causes as much as the consequences of adolescent pregnancy, supporting families in need can also be a significant part of the effort to reduce teenage pregnancy and too-early childbearing.

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*** Constant dollar adjustments were made using the overall Consumer Price Index for urban consumers (CPI-U).


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Estimates of Federal Investments

Endnotes

Source/Citation:
Feijoo AN. Teenage Pregnancy, the Case for Prevention: An Updated Analysis of Recent Trends & Federal Expenditures Associated with Teenage Pregnancy. Washington, DC: Advocates for Youth, 1999.

 
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