Spending on Services to Children of Teenage Parents Said To Be Rising

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In its fifth annual report on the topic, the Center for Population Options here found that American taxpayers spent $1.72 billion more in 1989 than in 1988 to provide for children who had been born to a teenage parent. The figure includes all such children, including those born before 1989.

The group said its figure was conservative since it includes only expen4ditures by three major federal support programs to all families begun when the mother was a teenager. It includes the money spent on welfare, Medicaid, and food stamps, but does not include such public costs as day care, foster care, or housing.

If all these births had been delayed until the mother was in her 20's, the report says, the public would have saved 40 percent of that amount, or $8.62 billion.

One reason for the higher costs, it says, is that for the first time in 18 years, the birth rate among teenagers is rising. It also reflects a federal mandate to states to expand their Medicaid programs to include all pregnant women and children up to age 6 who come from families earning up to 133 percent of the federal poverty level by April 1990.

"Teenage pregnancy exacts costs far beyond those incurred by the federal and state governments to support the families begun by a teen birth," the report notes. "Too-early childbearing often impoverishes lives--the lives of girls brought too soon into the rigors and responsibilel15lities of motherhood, of boys bewildered and unable to parent and provide adequately, of babies not planned or welcomed who become children blighted by lasting disadvantages in life."

According to the report, a child born to a teenage parent last year will cost the public an average of $16,975 by the time the child reaches age 20.

Over the next 20 years, the report says, $6.35 billion in public money will be spent on all children born to teenage mothers in 1989.--ef

Vol. 10, Issue 5

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