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Teen-age childbearing cost the nation more than $17.9 billion in federal welfare payments last year, according to a new report by the Center for Population Options, a Washington-based nonprofit group.

The estimate, released last week, represents a 7.7 percent increase over the organization's calculation for 1985 costs of $16.65 billion. It includes expenditures for Aid to Families with Dependent Children, Medicaid, and food stamps.

"This increase demonstrates the enormous annual public cost of teen-age childbearing,'' said Judith Senderowitz, executive director of the center, which focuses on preventing unplanned pregnancies, particularly among teen-agers. "The babies being born to teen-agers today will cost the United States billions of dollars by the time they reach adulthood.''

On average, according to the report, a family begun last year as a result of a first-time birth to a teen-age mother will cost the taxpayers $14,852 by the time the baby reaches age 20. If the mother had postponed having a child until she was at least 20 years old, the report states, the public cost would be $8,911.

The report cautions that such estimates are conservative because they do not include costs for day care, housing, special education, child-protection services, foster care, and other social services.


The number of people taking the General Educational Development examination rose by 3 percent from 1985 to 1986, according to the American Council on Education, which administers the high-school-equivalency test.

Last year was the second year in a row in which the number of test-takers increased over the previous year, the council notes in its annual report on the exam.

Douglas R. Whitney, director of the council's G.E.D. Testing Service, said the increases stemmed from greater national attention to the issue of adult literacy, as well as from efforts by teachers and local examiners to make more people aware of the program.

"We expect stable, slight increases in the future,'' he said.

More than 734,000 people took the test last year, including 31,000 who took the Spanish-language version, 1,600 who took the French version, and some 700 others, who used the Braille, audio-cassette, or large-print editions.

In addition, the council reported, the number of test-takers who passed the examination rose by 4 percent over the previous year, to 487,000, and the number of high-school-equivalency credentials awarded in the United States and Canada also rose.

Mr. Whitney noted that, in a continuation of a trend toward younger participants that began in the mid-1960's, half of the test takers were 21 years old or younger.

Copies of the 1986 edition of the " Statistical Report'' are available for $5 each from the G.E.D. Testing Service, 1 Dupont Circle, Washington, D.C. 20036.

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