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FAQs: The Public Costs of Teen Childbearing in North Carolina

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FAQs: The Public Costs of Teen Childbearing in North Carolina

How much does teen childbearing cost North Carolina taxpayers?

Teen childbearing costs North Carolina taxpayers more than $392 million each year. This dollar figure is based on an analysis of public spending and teen births in 2008.  Nationwide, teen childbearing costs taxpayers $10.9 billion.

How much have prevention programs saved taxpayers?

Since 1991, prevention efforts have reduced teen birth rates in North Carolina, preventing 272,824 teen births. In total, these prevention efforts have saved North Carolina taxpayers $7.7 billion since 1991.

Who determined these figures?

The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy conducted an analysis of teen childbearing costs to taxpayers in each state, and provided each state with this most recent data. The full analysis can be found at http://www.thenationalcampaign.org/costs.

How were these figures determined?

Analysts looked at the most strongly documented negative outcomes of teen childbearing – for example increased reliance on public health care programs and increased incarceration rates for children of teen parents. Analysts then examined the direct impact that teen parents and their children had on the cost of these public structures.

Costs were determined in comparison to children born to 20-21 year old mothers. In other words, analysts examined the public costs of these parents having these children at a young age rather than these parents never having children at all.

Why couldn’t state lawmakers simply reduce costs by cutting social programs?

Many of the costs associated with teen childbearing are costs that lawmakers have limited leeway over. The primary costs are associated with children of teen parents: Medicaid and SCHIP enrollment, incarceration, child welfare costs, and lost sales and income tax revenue. While we have seen deep and often draconian proposed cuts to all areas of state government, especially in programs that have a further preventative impact on these issues, it would be impossible for lawmakers to eliminate spending entirely: they have little say in medical program eligibility, and spending cuts cannot reduce incarceration rates or law enforcement responses to child welfare issues. Unfortunately, many cuts to effective programs only exacerbate the long-term costs. Furthermore, it would require increased public spending on more intensive education, youth development, and other programs to alleviate the lifelong negative impact on the child of a teen parent’s earning potential – the biggest factor in their taxpaying and spending ability.

What can be done to reduce public costs?

Teen pregnancy is an entirely preventable phenomenon. State and national lawmakers have made some wise decisions that have directly contributed to the $7.7 billion cost savings since 1991:

  • The Healthy Youth Act, a 2009 parent-supported bill to increase the amount of information students will receive as a part of reproductive health and safety education, increases communities’ ability to offer young people medically accurate safety information;
  • The federal-state Title X (ten) partnership helps low-income young people access critical preventative care, including contraceptives, pregnancy tests, STD/HIV tests, and pap tests;
  • The state’s Adolescent Parenting Program successfully helps young parents avoid reliance on public assistance, develop parenting skills, avoid becoming neglectful or abusive parents, finish an education, and avoid subsequent pregnancy; 
  • The state’s Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention Program allows local community groups, health departments, schools, and faith groups implement proven, evidence-based teen pregnancy prevention programs.

More of these programs – specifically evidence-based sexuality education programs and programs that increase access to contraceptive medical care – can further reduce the cost of teen childbearing.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT:  Elizabeth Finley, Director of Strategic Communications, efinley@appcnc.org, Office: (919) 226-1880, Mobile: (919) 749-7309

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