Anyone who’s seen even a glimpse of the MTV reality show 16 and Pregnant knows that teen pregnancy is often traumatic and fraught with pain and uncertainty.
Typical episode titles include, “Party girl with troubled past gets pregnant while her mom is in jail,” “All American girl gets pregnant from a one night stand,” and “Ex-party girl tries to get her stoner boyfriend to straighten up before their bundle of joy arrives.”
But in human and economic costs, there’s little entertainment value when it comes to Florida’s more than 496,000 teen child births over the past two decades.
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, teens and their children are much more likely to have lower education, health and economic outcomes than those who wait to have children. As a result, taxpayers are on the hook for billions in related costs, according to a new study by the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy.
Funded in part by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the study says Florida’s taxpayers contributed $443 million in teen childbearing costs in 2010, the most recent data available. Nationwide, taxpayers spent $9.4 billion.
“In addition to improving the well-being of children, youth and families, reducing teen pregnancy also saves taxpayer dollars,” Sarah Brown, the nonprofit’s chief executive officer, said in a statement.
It’s a subject that can ruffle politically correct feathers, and focusing on costs appears to be another way to address the problem.