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January 29, 2004 Legislative Preparation

May 6 - 7, 2004, MOAPPP Annual Conference

Pregnancy, Poverty, School and Employment

Teenage childbearing is associated with adverse consequences for young mothers and their children, many of which can be attributed to the economically and socially disadvantaged situations in which most adolescent mothers live before becoming pregnant. Often, the disadvantaged backgrounds of young women contribute to poor school performance, weak social skills and low earnings potential, and also increase the likelihood that a young woman will become pregnant as a teen. Teenage childbearing tends to exacerbate the problems of poverty and family instability many young women already face. Early childbearing contributes to lower levels of educational attainment for the adolescent mother and her child, high rates of single parenthood, larger family sizes and increased reliance on public assistance.

Connections like these too often are overlooked in efforts to prevent teen pregnancy. A deeper examination of the external influences on adolescents who become involved in a pregnancy is required in order to fully comprehend and effectively respond to the complexity of teen pregnancy.

The Minnesota Organization on Adolescent Pregnancy, Prevention and Parenting developed this series of fact sheets to draw the links between adolescent pregnancy and other social issues that are relevant to the lives of Minnesota teens. These fact sheets are based on published research and reports, and data available from state agencies. Data is national or, where noted, specific to Minnesota. References are listed at the end of this document.

Poverty is the factor most strongly related to teen pregnancy. State comparisons show that states with higher poverty rates also have higher proportions of non-marital births to adolescents (Moore 1995). In addition, some researchers have suggested that high poverty rates in the United States account for the fact that US teen birth rates are the highest of any industrialized nation (MacFarlane 1997; Males 1994).

High rates of youth poverty precede high rates of teenage childbearing. Teens residing in communities with high rates of poverty, welfare use, and single-mother households are at higher risk for early pregnancy. Teen parents are therefore disproportionately concentrated in poor communities characterized by inferior housing, high crime, poor schools and limited health services (Maynard 1996; Wilson 1996).

The Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Act of 1996 replaces Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) with Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), a single cash welfare block grant. Because of the well-documented association between teen pregnancy and welfare, much of the recent welfare reform debate and many aspects of the new law focus on teen pregnancy. The Act contains a number of provisions, which require states to come up with goals, plans and actions to reduce out of wedlock births, and teen pregnancy (Tullman 1996). The Statewide Minnesota Family Investment Program is Minnesota's version of the national TANF program. It includes a five year time limit on benefits and a mandatory work/education requirement. Success in School
Recent research examining the relationship between educational attainment and teenage pregnancy has addressed background factors like individual, family, and neighborhood characteristics to better explain the relationship. These studies have confirmed that teenage pregnancy adversely affects level of educational attainment. However, it has been found that young women and men often drop out of high school before they become parents, and that school attendance and achievement before conception are the best predictors of school attendance and achievement after delivery of the child (Stevens-Simon 1995). In terms of educational achievement, dropping out, rather than having a baby, appears to be the key factor that sets adolescent mothers behind their peers. Adolescent mothers who stay in school are almost as likely to graduate (73%) as women who do not become mothers while in high school (77%) (The Alan Guttmacher Institute 1994). Employment
Failure to complete high school prevents young mothers from going on to post-secondary education and from participating in many vocational training programs (Stevens-Simon 1995). Limited educational achievement combined with low basic skills and limited job experience means fewer employment opportunities and lower wages for teenage mothers (Maynard 1996; Zill and Nord 1994). In addition, teenage mothers have more children on average and are less likely to be married than women who delay childbearing. As a result, they must stretch their limited incomes to support more children (The National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy 1997).

Over the last two decades, the US economy has lost most of its low-skill, high-paying manufacturing jobs, restricting career opportunities for low-income youths, the population most likely to be involved in early pregnancies (Wilson 1996; Males 1994). As the qualifications for good jobs rise, teenage mothers who fail to finish school have more difficulty finding gainful employment (The Alan Guttmacher Institute 1994). In summary, adolescent pregnancy results in significant challenges for the teen mother, father and their child. It is important to understand the connections between issues like poverty, welfare reliance, low educational achievement and employment options in the life of an adolescent parent. These factors are often part of the lives of young women before they have a child and are further compounded by the birth of a child. Understanding these connections can provide insight when developing teen pregnancy prevention programs or when seeking out better ways to support teen parents.

MOAPPP can help by providing the resources that you need to help Minnesota teens. Contact the MOAPPP InfoExchange at (612) 644-1447 or toll-free in Minnesota at (800) 657-3697.


The Alan Guttmacher Institute. 1994. Sex and America's Teenagers. New York: The Alan Guttmacher Institute.

Brindis, C. 1997. "Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention for Hispanic Youth" The Prevention Researcher.

Brown, S.S., and L. Eisenberg (eds.). 1995. The Best Intentions: Unintended Pregnancy and the Well-Being of Children and Families. Washington, DC: National Institute of Medicine.

Congressional Budget Office. 1990. Sources of support for teenage parents. Washington, DC: US Government Printing Office.

HHS/ACF/OFA. 1996. Aid to Families with Dependent Children: Characteristics and Financial Circumstances, October 1994-September 1995. Washington, DC: US Government Printing Office.

GAO/HEHS 94-115. 1994. AFDC Women Who Gave Birth As Teenagers. Washington, DC: US Government Printing Office.

Hotz, V.J., S.W. McElroy, and S. Sanders. 1997. "Mothers: Effects of early childbearing on the lives of the mothers" in Kids Having Kids: Economic Costs and Social Consequences of Teen Pregnancy, R. Maynard (ed.). Washington, DC: Urban Institute Press.

Klepinger, D.H., S. Lundberg, and R.D. Plotnick. 1995. "Adolescent Fertility and the Educational Attainment of Young Women." Family Planning Perspectives, 27(1): 23-27.

MacFarlane, R. 1997. "Summary of Adolescent Pregnancy Research: Implications for Prevention." The Prevention Researcher.

Males, M. 1994. "Poverty, Rape, Adult/Teen Sex: Why 'Pregnancy Prevention' Programs Don't Work". Phi Delta Kappan: pp. 407-410.

Maynard, R. (ed). 1996. Kids Having Kids: A Robin Hood Foundation Special Report on the Costs of Adolescent Childbearing. New York: The Robin Hood Foundation.

Moore, K. 1995. "Nonmarital Childbearing in the United States." Report to Congress on Out-of-Wedlock Childbearing. US Department of Health and Human Services.

Minnesota Department of Human Services. Reports and Forecasts Division. 1997.

The National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy. 1997. Whatever Happened to Childhood? The Problem of Teen Pregnancy in the United States. Washington, DC: The National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy.

Postrado, L.T., F. L. Weiss, and H.J. Nicholson. 1997. "Prevention of Sexual Intercourse for Teen Women Aged 12 to 14." The Prevention Researcher.

Stevens-Simon, C., and R. Lowy. 1995. "Teenage Childbearing: An Adaptive Strategy for the Socioeconomically Disadvantaged or a Strategy for Adapting to Socioeconomic Disadvantage?" Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine. (149): 912-915.

Tullman, J. 1996. "Teenage Pregnancy Provision in the Welfare Reform Bill" The National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy.

Wilson, W.J. 1996. When work disappears: The world of the new urban poor. New York: Knopf.

Zill, N., and C.W. Nord. 1994. Running in Place: How American Families Are Faring in a Changing Economy and an Individualistic Society. Washington, DC: Child Trends.]

Compiled by Peggy O’Halloran (April 1998)

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