By Megan Comlossy

Today and throughout May, communities and youth across the nation celebrate two decades of steady decline in the nation’s teen pregnancy rate.

The U.S. has seen teen pregnancy and teen birth rates reach record lows again and again over the past few years. In fact, since the 1990s, rates have fallen by more than 50 percent.

Yet despite this progress, U.S. teen pregnancy and birth rates remain the highest in the industrialized world. Nearly three in 10 girls in the United States still get pregnant by their 20th birthday. And, according to a recently updated analysis by the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, teen childbearing comes at significant cost to taxpayers. In 2010, the public cost of teen childbearing was in the billions, ranging from $15 million in Vermont to $1.1 billion in Texas.

Because teen pregnancy is closely linked to health, education, and child welfare, reducing teen pregnancy and early childbearing not only saves taxpayer dollars, it can also improve family well-being, and contribute to a strong economy and competitive workforce.

The National Day provides an opportunity to raise awareness about these issues, and, through an interactive online quiz, helps teens think about the decisions they make. Four in 10 teens say they have not considered what life would be like if they were to get pregnant or cause a pregnancy, according to a new national survey from the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy. Eight in 10 adults think additional efforts to prevent teen pregnancy are needed in their community.

State policymakers are working to reduce teen pregnancy and the associated costs through legislative and nonlegislative means, including appropriating funding for evidence-based programs, developing media campaigns, encouraging conversations between youth and parents, and engaging business, education, faith, nonprofit, and other community groups.

For more resources on teen pregnancy, please visit NCSL’s Teen Pregnancy Prevention webpage.

Additional information on the National Day to Prevent Teen Pregnancy and what you can do, is available here.

Megan Comlossy is a policy specialist in NCSL's Health program.

Email Megan.


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This blog offers updates on the National Conference of State Legislatures' research and training, the latest on federalism and the state legislative institution, and posts about state legislators and legislative staff. The blog is edited by NCSL staff and written primarily by NCSL's experts on public policy and the state legislative institution.


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