Now that the campaigning is nearly over and the last votes will be cast next week, it’s time to turn our attention to certain national problems that were not addressed by the candidates. To many single-issue voters, one of the topics that arose during the past several months was abortion. However, I think there is another important issue that has received almost no attention: teen pregnancy.
Historically, this was not considered to be a social problem. As Robin Wolf, Robin Franck, and I pointed out in a chapter published in 2002 (Hohm and Glynn, California’s Social Problems), “pregnancy among teenagers was not unusual in the 1950s, but teenagers overwhelmingly gave birth as married women, even if that required a wedding ceremony with a pregnant bride.”
Since then the age of entry into marriage has increased dramatically for both men and women. Today, fully half of all women wait until they are 25 before entering into marriage, and men wait even longer. Data from the National Center for Health Statistics show that about two-thirds of American teenagers believe that it is better to live with someone prior to marriage, and that seems to be what people are doing. Consequences of these trends may include the fact that more teenage pregnancies now result in births to unmarried teens.
At the beginning of the 21st century, 71 children were born per 1,000 teenage girls each year. By 2010 (the last year for which data are available), this was slashed in half to about 31. In California, the respective figures are 73 in 2000 and 42 in 2010. While the California Office of Family Planning (COFP) is quite proud of these figures, we need to realize that hundreds of thousands of girls in our state become pregnant annually. The fact that the rate declines but the problem remains about the same is due to population growth and the fact that a large percentage of our immigrants are young and of child-bearing age...