Concentrated efforts over the last couple of decades to decrease teen births have paid off, but there is still a lot of work that needs to be done according to a new survey.
In its latest Right Start policy report, the Michigan League for Public Policy says the efforts have led to a 40 percent drop in Michigan’s teen births in the last 20 years.
Despite being below the national average, Michigan’s annual state teen birth rate remains among the highest of any industrialized country. According to the study significant disparities persist in low-income communities and communities of color.
American teens are more than twice as likely to have a baby as those in Canada, four times more likely than teens in Germany or Norway and almost 10 times more likely than teens in Switzerland.
“We have far fewer babies born to teen moms today and we should be thrilled with this progress, but we must not slow our efforts,” said Alicia Guevara Warren, Kids Count in Michigan Project Director at the Michigan League for Public Policy. “We still have too many babies born to teen moms—an average of almost 9,000 annually over the last three years—and that’s 9,000 babies who are more likely to live in poverty, struggle academically and suffer from health issues.”
Research shows that teen childbearing has a lifelong impact on both mother and child, along with the state’s economy. Most teen moms do not complete high school, live in poverty, and raise a child alone, making it more difficult to ensure that their children are ready and prepared for school. Children living in poverty also are more susceptible to decreased health outcomes and are at higher risk for abuse and neglect. Michigan taxpayers also bear the cost of teen childbearing at approximately $283 million in 2010, according to the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy.
The study found that teen pregnancy disproportionately impacts low-income communities. Of the 69 major population centers in Michigan examined, those in wealthy suburban communities in Oakland, Ottawa and Macomb had the smallest percentages of teen births. However, the communities with the largest percentages of teen births were concentrated in central cities in eight counties across Michigan’s lower half, including Battle Creek, Port Huron, Muskegon, Flint/Flint Township, Jackson, Pontiac, Saginaw, Detroit and Highland Park.