NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


August 15, 2006

A young Latina is more likely to live in poverty, drop out of school, get pregnant as an unmarried teenager, succumb to drug use and attempt suicide than any other demographic group.  They are in worse shape than young black males, who had previously held the title of this country's lost souls, says the Baltimore Sun.

These girls and young women are caught between the cultural traditions to which their immigrant parents expect them to adhere -- particularly, service to the family -- and the galloping teen culture in which they find themselves in this country, a culture about which their parents are particularly uninformed.

The result can be a sense of desperation:

  • According to the New York Times, a government study found that one in six young Hispanic women have attempted suicide, a rate 1 1/2 times as high as that among non-Hispanic white and black teenage girls; fortunately, most survive.
  • According to Child Trends, a nonprofit, nonpartisan research center in Washington, D.C., Hispanic teens reported the lowest levels of all racial and ethnic groups in the use of any contraceptive method the first time they had sex.

The result?

  • According to the National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy, 51 percent of Latinas get pregnant at least once before age 20, compared with the national average of 35 percent of all teen girls.
  • While teen birth rates for other demographic groups have declined, the birth rate for Latina teens has actually increased.
  • And teen births no doubt explain the disproportionately high rates of poverty and school drop out -- Latino teens are more likely to drop out of high school than are white or African-American youth.

Source: Susan Reimer, "Birth control message is not reaching Latinas," Baltimore Sun, August 13, 2006.


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