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A decline of almost 30 percent in the earnings of young adult males over the past decade has exacerbated the problems of teen-age pregnancy and child poverty, according to a new study by the Children's Defense Fund.

Although 60 percent of all males between the ages of 20 and 24 were able to earn enough money to lift a family of three out of poverty in 1973, the study found, only 42 percent were able to do so by 1984. During that time, the average annual earnings for that group, adjusted for inflation, dropped from $11,572 to $8,072. And, while earnings dropped for white, black, and Hispanic men alike, black men suffered the greatest loss--almost 50 percent.

The poverty level for a family of three in 1984 was $8,277, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

The study attributed the decline in wages to a "continuing shift of jobs in the U.S. economy from goods-producing to service sectors, and the reduced ability of young men to secure full-time, year-round employment.''

The inability of young adult males to support families has had a destabilizing effect on marriage and families, and has contributed to increased rates of out-of-wedlock births, according to Marian Wright Edelman, president of the Children's Defense Fund.

"The decline in earnings has greatly exacerbated the teen-pregnancy problem and the declining marriage rates among young black men and women, and has fueled substantial increases in poverty among young families and their children,'' Ms. Edelman said in a written statement announcing the study's release this month.

The study also found that:
The percentage of all male high-school dropouts between the ages of 20 and 24 who could support a family of three dropped by nearly half between 1973 and 1984, from 59 percent to 32 percent. Only 40 percent of white male dropouts, fewer than 30 percent of Hispanic male dropouts, and about 11 percent of black male dropouts had earnings above the poverty line for a family of three in 1984.
In 1973, young male college graduates earned 25 percent more than high-school dropouts, but by 1984, their average earnings were nearly twice those of dropouts.

Copies of the report, "Declining Earnings of Young Men: Their Relation to Poverty, Teen Pregnancy, and Family Formation,'' may be obtained for $4 each by writing the Children's Defense Fund, 122 C St., N.W., Washington, D.C. 20001, or by calling (202) 628-8787.

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