Hit TV shows like MTV’s “Teen Mom” and “16 and Pregnant” may have been intended to showcase the trials of being a teen parent. Yet, many believe that these shows do little more than dramatize and sometimes glamourize the struggle that is, unfortunately, quite common among teens in America. The fame and excitement inherent in appearing on an MTV reality show somewhat undermines the severity of the plight of teens whose lives have been inescapably altered by motherhood and fatherhood. However, the very public shaming of some of those inept parents - while perhaps ethically questionable on the part of MTV - might encourage some young viewers to approach parenthood with the requisite caution.
Indeed, one study conducted by economists Phillip B. Levine of Wesley College and Melissa Schettini Kearney of the University of Maryland suggested that reality TV shows about being young and pregnant correlate to a 5.7% decrease in teen pregnancy rates in the US, and are responsible for one-third of the total drop in teen pregnancies between 2009 and 2010. The study also showed that tweets and Google searches about abortion and birth control increased during the period the shows were on air. This supports the notion that many viewers are seeing the individuals who display the struggle of teen parenthood as examples of a route to avoid taking.
Teen pregnancy is a national issue in the United States. Recent studies rank the U.S. as having the highest in teenage birth rates among the most developed countries, more than twice as high than Canada’s or Australia’s teen birth rate. 30% of women in the U.S. become pregnant before reaching 20 years of age and a reported 82% of those pregnancies are unintended.
With only half of the teens who have a child before the age of 18 graduating from high school and 78% of children born to unmarried teen moms without a diploma living in poverty, teen pregnancy is an insidious social problem.
This list, based on details from a 2008 study conducted by the Guttmacher Institute, demonstrates the extent of the problem by showing the rates of teen pregnancy during the last decade.
10 South Carolina, birth rate per 1,000 teen girls: 51
There are 51 births for every 1,000 teen girls in South Carolina. Despite that number having dropped by 8% in 2011, according to Forrest Alton - CEO of South Carolina Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy - there are as many as 6000 women who become pregnant before reaching 20 years of age. These births cost taxpayers up to $197 million every year, so it’s no wonder that this is a hot topic of statewide concern.
9 Tennessee, birth rate per 1,000 teen girls: 52
In Tennessee, there were 52 births for every 1,000 teen girls in 2008. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Adolescent Health determined that there were 8,600 births to females under the age of 20 in 2011 alone. The OAH also conducted a survey on the sexual behaviors among high school students and determined (among other trends) that on average only 59% of sexually active teens in Tennessee used a condom the last time they had sex.
8 Kentucky, birth rate per 1,000 teen girls: 54
In 2008 Kentucky had 54 births for every 1,000 teen girls. The OAH reports a total of 6,167 births in 2011 to women under the age of 20. 82% of these births were to white teen mothers. OAH’s sexual behavior among high school students survey found that only 51% of sexually active teens used a condom the last time they had intercourse, with 16% not using any contraceptive method at all.
7 Louisiana, birth rate per 1,000 teen girls: 54
In Louisiana, the birth rate per 1,000 teen girls was 54 in 2008. In 2011, 7,083 children were born to women under the age of 20. More shockingly 113 of these births were to young girls under the age of 15 - a worrisome statistic. Studies show that a big cause of teen pregnancy is sex with an older partner, suggesting high teen pregnancy rates are a much bigger problem than merely the expense of taxpayer dollars.
6 Arizona, birth rate per 1,000 teen girls: 54
The teen birth rate was 54 children per 1,000 teen girls in Arizona in 2008. The state had a little over 8000 births in 2011. It’s unsettling to learn that 102 of these births were to girls under the age of 15. Up to 47% of high school students in Arizona reported having had sexual intercourse and 22% reported having used drugs or alcohol before they the last time they had sex.
5 Oklahoma, birth rate per 1,000 teen girls: 58
In Oklahoma, there are 58 births per every 1,000 teen girls. Over 50% of high school students reported having sexual intercourse, 17% of which have had sex with four or more partners. Unfortunately, only 57% of these sexually active teens reported using a condom the last time they had sex.
4 Arkansas, birth rate per 1,000 teen girls: 60
There are 60 births per every 1,000 teen girls in Arkansas. In 2011, there were 4,902 births to women under 20. 23% of women under 20 years old who had a repeat birth in 2011 were African American. The teen pregnancy rate in Arkansas is also very high at 80% per 1,000 teen girls.
3 Texas, birth rate per 1,000 teen girls: 61
In Texas there are 61 births per 1,000 teen girls. Texas’ plan of attack against the problem of high teen pregnancy rates was to spend $1.2 million dollars on a 'pro-abstinence' campaign in 2013. While Texas has the highest rate of taxpayer expenses related to teen pregnancy, it seems questionably effective to spend millions on campaigning for teens to abstain from sex. Many have argued that the money would better go toward providing resources that educate students on sexual health and contraceptive use.
2 New Mexico, birth rate per 1,000 teen girls: 61
In New Mexico, 68% of teen births are to Hispanic mothers. There were 61 births to every 1,000 teen girls in 2008 alone. With 93 pregnancies per every 1,000 women under 20 years old, teen pregnancy is evidently a big issue in New Mexico that requires state intervention.
1 Mississippi, birth rate per 1,000 teen girls: 64
In Mississippi, there are 64 births per every 1,000 teen girls. In 2011, there were 5,460 births to women under the age of 20 statewide. A survey by the Office of Adolescent Health revealed that 58% of high school students in Mississippi reported having had sex, with 22% having had sex with 4 or more partners, but only 65% having used condoms. This clearly shows that the teen pregnancy and birth rate are issues in the Magnolia state that necessitate consideration, education and intervention.