The census results are in. The teen birth rate is at an all time low. Lower than it was in 1940, when they first started tracking teenage pregnancies. Down 6% since 2008. And people are saying the reason is… the economy. It’s a nice idea, especially if you’re looking to promote a certain political agenda: the economy is SO SUCKY that even teenagers, notoriously oblivious to the woes of the world around their tiny (huge) heads, are sobered into abstinence. Abstinence being the operative word from a political standpoint. But let’s be realistic here.
Teenagers are self-centered by definition. Sure, kids can understand the economic ruin around them. People are broke. And babies cost money. If your parents can’t even afford to take care of you, well, you can’t really count on them to pick up the slack if you go and get yourself knocked up. Logically, any intelligent person could see that a baby is a bad economic idea.
But since when has logic been a match for teenage lust?
There is probably some level of economic motivation among what Bill Albert of the National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy calls the “mushy middle ground”. These are teens who say, ‘Well, yeah, I wouldn’t want to get pregnant, but it wouldn’t be the worst thing that happened.'” “Their parents might be struggling to make house payments,”Albert said. “They might know neighbors who have lost jobs and can’t find jobs.” But it’s a stretch to say that these in-between teens are thinking about house payments or unemployment when they’re slobbering all over each other in the rec room. And how does the lack of money as pregnancy deterrent theory work with the fact that teen pregnancy rates are consistently higher in low-income neighborhoods, where money issues are a constant concern?
Media outlets have been lambasted lately for glorifying teen pregnancy, showing teenage moms glammed up on the covers of magazines. Reality-based shows like MTV’s 16 and Pregnant and Teen Mom have been said to have a discouraging effect according to recent viewer polls, though since these shows are quite recent, these birth rate results are unlikely to relate.
What’s really behind this drop in teen pregnancy is most likely a little more concrete than abstract thoughts about why it’s a bad idea to get pregnant. For example, an increase in the use of birth control. According to Rachel Jones, of The Guttmacher Institute for Sexual And Reproductive Health, “The levels of teen sexual activity haven’t changed, which would suggest that there isn’t more abstinence out there — but there was a change in contraceptive use.”
See the story in Salon.