Don't get me wrong, Ceci Connolly's recent article in the Washington Post  about declining teen pregnancy and—as a result—declining child poverty, is cause for celebration. According to the National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy, the teen birthrate fell by 30 percent between 1991(its 20 year high  ) and 2002. Without that drop (and this is astounding when you really think about it): "1.2 million more children would have been born to teenage mothers in the United States. Of those, 460,000 would have been living in poverty and 700,000 would have grown up in a single-parent household." Those statistics, quoted from Conolly's article, are evidence that strides have been made over the past 10 years to keep children—and their teenaged parents—out of poverty. However, it is Connolly's final paragraphs that deserve the most attention:
Despite the encouraging developments, [Sarah S.] Brown and [Deborah] Cutler-Ortiz warned that the nation still faces enormous challenges. "Even with all these declines— in every single state— the U.S. still has the highest teen pregnancy rates in the fully developed world," Brown said. One in three American women conceives by the time she is 20.
And although pregnancy data were available only through 2002, Cutler-Ortiz noted that poverty rates have been increasing since 2000, raising concern the improvements may be short-lived.
Sadly, the progress we have made may not last. In fact, teenage pregnancy was on a slow decline since the 1970s, but began a rise in the late 1980s, peaking at 1991with "62.1 births per 1,000 females aged 15-19  ." Experts tend to cite several reasons for changes in the rate of teen pregnancies, factoring in variables such as useage of contraception, fear of sexually transmitted diseases and public policy. It's Cutler-Ortiz's mention of rising poverty rates that gets my attention, however, as economic factors have been linked to teenage pregnancy as well. The Alan Guttmacher Institute  , in examining the drop in teenage birthrates, found that, "greater educational and employment opportunity are linked to lower teenage pregnancy rates and birthrates  ." Does this mean, then, that increasing poverty rates over the last few years will lead to another spike in teen birthrates and child poverty?