Teen Childbearing Cost North Carolina Taxpayers More Than $392 Million
New data also highlights a $7.7 billion savings to taxpayers because of investments in prevention.
DURHAM, N.C. (JUNE 9, 2011) – Teen childbearing costs North Carolina taxpayers more than $392 million each year, according to new data released Thursday by The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy. The analysis also highlights the $7.7 billion North Carolina taxpayers have saved since 1991 because of public and private investments in teen pregnancy prevention.
The new data examined linkages between public safety net structures, teen parents and the children of teen parents. Contrary to public perception, most public costs are related to the poor outcomes of children of teen parents. Approximately one out of every eight North Carolina babies is born to a mother under age 20.
In 2008, North Carolina’s taxpayer-associated costs for children of teen parents included: $77 million for Medicaid and SCHIP, $46 million for child welfare, $69 million for incarceration, and $121 million in lost income and sales tax revenue. The analysis did not consider additional spending on North Carolina-specific programs, such as the state’s early education initiatives.
“These numbers really show us that an ounce of prevention can be worth $392 million worth of cure,” said Kay Phillips, executive director of the Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention Campaign of North Carolina. “At a time when our public budgets have taken such a tough economic hit, it’s frustrating to know we’re spending this much on the consequences of a preventable problem.”
Multi-billion dollar progress
In addition to revealing the current public cost of teen childbearing, the analysis also showed teen pregnancy prevention efforts have saved the state’s taxpayers $7.7 million since 1991. Since 1991, North Carolina’s teen pregnancy rate has dropped 44.6%.
One such North Carolina effort is the Adolescent Parenting Program coordinated by the Division of Public Health, which works with teen parents to reduce their reliance on public services. The program helps young parents finish an education, set career goals, avoid abusive behavior towards their children, and avoid subsequent pregnancy.
Other successful efforts include the passage of the Healthy Youth Act, a 2009 parent-supported bill that increased the amount of reproductive health information offered in schools, and the Title X program, a state-federal partnership to help low-income young women access pregnancy prevention services.
“North Carolina has made smart policy and investment decisions in teen pregnancy prevention, and we are seeing the payoff,” according to Phillips. “However, the new cost figures show how critical our continued progress is to the fiscal health of our state.”
The full report is available online at http://www.thenationalcampaign.org/costs.
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