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Teen childbearing carries a heavy cost

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Teen childbearing in Minnesota cost taxpayers at least $146 million in 2010.

That’s according to an updated analysis released by The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy.

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Nationwide, teen childbearing cost taxpayers $9.4 billion.

How do the births impact tax dollars?

According to the campaign, most of the public sector costs of teen childbearing are associated with “negative consequences” often experienced by the children of teen mothers, during their childhood and adolescent years.

This includes costs associated with public health care (Medicaid and CHIP), increased participation in child welfare, and, among those who have reached adolescence and young adulthood, increased rates of incarceration and lost tax revenue due to decreased earnings and spending.

There is good news for Minnesota when it comes to teen birth rates: They’re dropping.

Between 1991 and 2010, there were 103,902 teen births in Minnesota, costing taxpayers $4 billion over that period.

Minnesota, however, experienced a 40 percent decline in the teen birth rate between 1991 and 2010, which saved taxpayers an estimated $141 million in 2010 alone, compared to what they would have paid if rates had not fallen.

In Douglas County, the trend isn’t as clear.

Teen Pregnancy Prevention Action Council (TePPAC) works toward preventing teen pregnancy and other high-risk behaviors.

According to TePPAC, the Douglas County Hospital recorded 29 births to teen mothers in 2013, just one less than 2012’s 30 births. There were no teen deliveries to those younger than age 17.

Most of the teen mothers, 19 in 2012 and 20 in 2013, lived in Douglas County.

TePPAC was started in 1985 by concerned parents and professionals. Some steps that TePPAC has taken to try to reduce teen pregnancies:

● Supports “Serve, Lead, Act, Motivate” (SLAM) at Jefferson High School and “Project for Teens” (P4T) at Osakis High School. Both programs are student-driven prevention programs presented to younger students.

● Supports “Baby Think It Over” dolls at Discovery, Osakis, Brandon/Evansville Schools and Public Health/Social Services family health programs. Students carry baby-sized dolls with them around the clock to get a better idea of parenting responsibilities.

● Produced an advertisement shown before movies at Midway Mall Cinema 9 reminding parents to talk to children about high risk behaviors.

● Offers seventh and eighth grade health classes at Discovery Middle School focusing on sex education.

ABOUT THE NEW DATA

The new teen childbearing data updates research conducted for The National Campaign in 2004 by Saul Hoffman, Ph.D., of the University of Delaware.

The analysis provides a conservative estimate of public costs, based on the increased risk of consequences faced by teen mothers, fathers and their children as compared to mothers having children in their early 20s, using controls for many other factors.

“In addition to improving the well-being of children, youth and families, reducing teen pregnancy also saves taxpayer dollars,” said Sarah Brown, CEO of The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy. “Even though teen pregnancy and childbearing are at historic lows, the still-high public costs associated with teen childbearing remind us all that complacency should not hinder further progress and that progress should not be confused with victory.”

The analysis was funded in part by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

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Al Edenloff
Al Edenloff is the news and opinion page editor for the Echo Press. He was born in Alexandria and lived most of his childhood in Parkers Prairie. He graduated with honors from Moorhead State University with a degree in mass communications, print journalism. He interned at the Echo Press in the summer of 1983 and was hired a year later as a sports reporter. He also worked as a news reporter/photographer. Al is a four-time winner of the Minnesota Newspaper Association's Herman Roe Award, which honors excellence in editorial writing.  
(320) 763-1236
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