Unplanned Pregnancy and Future Opportunities


Photo of a teenThe U.S. teen birth rate is at an all-time low and the unplanned pregnancy rate, among women of all ages, recently reached a 30-year low. Despite these positive trends, rates are still high compared to similar countries and dramatic disparities remain.

Even with the recent decline, about 45 percent of all pregnancies in the U.S. are unplanned and, among women ages 20 to 24, approximately one in 12 experiences an unplanned pregnancy each year. The story is similar for teens. Despite plummeting rates in recent years, approximately one in four teens will become pregnant at least once by age 20.  

Teen and unplanned pregnancy can hinder future opportunities for young parents and their children, and have significant costs for states. Teen childbearing is estimated to cost federal, state and local taxpayers at least $9.4 billion annually, and the annual cost of publically funded medical care for unplanned pregnancies among women of all ages totals $12 billion.

Older teens and young women in their early 20s are typically finishing high school and entering the job market, or pursuing postsecondary education. Unplanned pregnancy can disrupt young people’s education and career goals, limit earning potential, and affect their children’s health and educational outcomes. Nationally, nearly one in 10 female community college students drops out because of unplanned motherhood.

This brief highlights the high costs of unplanned pregnancy for young women, families and states, and provides state policy options for preventing teen and unplanned pregnancy.

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