NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


October 30, 2006

Teen childbearing has declined sharply since the early 1990s -- despite a falling abortion rate -- but remains costly to U.S. taxpayers, who incurred a tab of least $9.1 billion in 2004, according to a report by the National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy.

The children of teen mothers have higher health care, foster care and incarceration costs than those of older parents, say the report's authors.  And like their parents, they earn less as adults and pay less in taxes.

But most of the costs last year -- $8.6 billion -- were incurred by mothers 17 and younger, as opposed to women who have a first child at 20 or 21.  According to the authors:

  • Girls 17 and under are more than twice as likely to have a child placed in foster care, to be reported for child abuse or neglect, and to have a son sent to prison.
  • Their kids are far more likely to drop out of high school and their daughters to become teen mothers themselves, the report states.

In total, the report's authors say the cost to government averages $1,430 per child per year, which is split into several categories:

  • Teen childbearing cost $1.9 billion in health care and child welfare totaled $2.3 billion.
  • Some $2.1 billion was spent for incarceration and $2.9 billion was lost to lower tax revenue.

Overall, teen birth rates generally have fallen since 1957 but rose in the late 1980s.  The subsequent drop saved taxpayers an estimated $6.7 billion nationally in 2004, the authors says.  The savings ranged from more than $1 billion in California to $5 million in Wyoming.

Source: Wendy Koch, "Fewer teens are giving birth, but cost to taxpayers still steep," USA Today, October 30, 2006.

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