The Price of Teen Pregnancy

By: Jessa Goddard
By: Jessa Goddard

Knoxville (WVLT) - Wednesday is National Prevent Teen Pregnancy Day.

Medical Reporter Jessa Goddard takes a look at the spiritual, emotional and economic tolls it can take.

Nationally, teen pregnancy rates are coming down.

And while the consequences to the teenage parents are obvious, there's also a tangible cost to you, the taxpayer.

More than $9 billion a year.

"85 percent of young women who do not use any form of contraceptives become pregnant within the first year of having sex," says Kristina Kirkland, from Florence Crittenton Agency.

And in Knox County, many of those young women find themselves at Florence Crittenton Agency, which provides care and counseling to pregnant teens.

Here, these expecting moms learn about the very real costs of having a baby.

These are just the ones you can count, and just the most basic ones at that, food and diapers, doctor's visits, child care.

"So, $14,000 for the first year of life," says Kirkland.

Even if the teen parents and their families can afford that expense, the cost to society is even greater.

Health care for the baby. "The Tennessee health care system, state system, is going to pick up the bill for that," Kirkland explains.

Food for the baby. "The government provides food subsidies, so that's a cost to us all."

But perhaps the greatest cost of all is that of potential.

Only 70 percent of teen mothers complete high school, and they're even less likely to go on to college.

"This is a pool of youth that are lost to that, at least initially. So, we all pay for that."

And children born to teen mothers who don't graduate high school are nine times more likely to grow up in poverty themselves.

The United States has, by far, the highest rates of teen pregnancy in the west.

Double those of Great Britain, four times those of France and Germany and more than ten times those of Japan.

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