Policy Alert

From Budget Cuts to Baby Wipes: Will Teen Pregnancy Be Back On The Rise?

The Trump Administration has eliminated over $213 million in funds for teen pregnancy prevention programs and research, raising concerns that teen pregnancy rates will begin to rise.

The Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program (TPPP) was established by the Obama Administration in 2010 to promote evidence-based interventions for reducing teen pregnancy rates among young people at higher risk. Administered by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Adolescent Health, these programs were intended to serve over 1 million youth during the second five-year cycle of funding. Similar programs have successfully resulted in a decrease in teen pregnancy rates and sexually transmitted infections. However, at least 81 of the 86 programs and institutions that were funded were informed that their funding will be cut.

The Big Picture

The United States continues to have one of the highest teen birth rates among developed countries. Furthermore, 77% of teen pregnancies are unplanned. The birth rate among adolescents between the ages of 15 and 19 in St. Louis City is nearly twice as high as the national average.

In addition to these immediate costs, there are long-term consequences to the economy. Teen pregnancy can interrupt educational achievement and limit young parents to low-wage employment. Furthermore, the children of teenage mothers are more likely to drop out of high school. They experience greater health challenges, higher incarceration rates and unemployment, and continue the cycle of adolescent parenting.

The cost of teen childbearing in the United States was at least $9.4 billion in 2010. In the same year, the cost of teen childbearing in Missouri was $184 million.

Rates of teen pregnancy have reached a significant decline, with a 51% decrease in teen pregnancy between 1990 and 2010. These rates continue to decline, with an 8% decrease nationally between 2014 and 2015. In Missouri, the teen birth rate has declined 61% between 1991 and 2015.

Regional Impacts

Better Family Life, a St. Louis-based non-profit that promotes positive and innovative changes in the lives of individuals and their families, has been a recipient of this funding. Better Family Life has been a designated TPPP granteesince 2010, and is currently serving 2,000 middle and high school students in partnership with local schools. Using evidence-based models, teen-friendly strategies, and trauma-informed approaches, Better Family Life aims to reduce disparities in teen pregnancy and STIs among adolescents facing multiple social challenges.

“We are at a historic low in teen pregnancy, representing the culmination of decades of work to address this complex issue using a multi-pronged approach,” said Lorien Carter, associate professor of practice at the Brown School at Washington University. Carter is also an executive board member of the Teen Pregnancy and Prevention Partnership, a sub-grantee of Better Family Life.

“The implementation of these programs represents the first time that federal attention was shifted to using existing research in order to implement medically accurate, evidence-based reproductive health curricula,” she said. “If we don’t maintain this level of attention to using what evidence proves to be effective, rates will go back up.”

Markovitz, L., Oliphant, J., Parcels L., Thurman, A. (2017) Budget Cuts to Baby Wipes: Will teen pregnancy be back on the rise?  St. Louis, MO: The Clark-Fox Policy Institute, Brown School at Washington University in St. Louis