The costs? Even though U.S. teen birth rates have reached historic lows, new data indicate teen childbearing has significant consequences for taxpayers. In 2010, the public cost of teen childbearing ranged from $15 million in Vermont to $1.1 billion in Texas, according to the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy. Most of these federal, state and local costs stem from the children born to teen parents. They are more likely to suffer poor health, underachieve in school, be incarcerated or placed in foster care, live in poverty and become teen parents themselves. In addition to the costs associated with public health care (Medicaid and CHIP), the child welfare and criminal justice systems, lower levels of education among teen parents and their children often result in reduced earnings and spending. For states, this translates to less tax revenue.
The good news? Between 1991 and 2010, declines in state teen birth rates ranged from 19 percent in North Dakota to 59 percent in Washington, D.C., saving American taxpayers billions. The progress North Dakota made in reducing its rate, for example, saved taxpayers an estimated $6 million in 2010 alone, compared to the cost if rates had not fallen. In California, the decline in teen birth rate ultimately saved $1.8 billion in taxpayer money. Despite the significant decline in the past two decades, nearly 3-in-10 girls still become pregnant by the time they turn 20 and 2-in-10 teen births are to teens who already have a child.
The solutions? State policymakers continue to work on reducing teen pregnancy and its associated costs through legislative and other means. A few of the most common strategies include funding successful programs, developing media campaigns, encouraging conversations between teens and parents, and engaging business, education, faith, nonprofit and other community groups in efforts to reduce the rates. To see data for your state, go to: The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy. "Counting it Up: The Public Costs of Teen Childbearing.”