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Teen pregnancy and childbearing are at historic lows in all 50 states, showing that progress in this area has been significant.
Rates have been declining both across the U.S. and statewide. In accordance with the general trend, the teen birth rate has decreased in Illinois and Chicago, with the city recording a new historic low. The data now available is from 2016, and it shows that Chicago registered a 10.5 percent decrease since 2015.
Illinois registered 18.7 births per 1,000 females aged 15 to 19 in 2016, down from a rate of 22.8 in 2014. On January 15th, Mayor Rahm Emanuel said that Chicago registered 24.6 births per 1,000 females aged 15 to 19 in 2016.
Although it remains higher than the national average, the teen birth rate in Chicago continues to drop, according to city officials.
Teen pregnancy and childbearing have a substantial social and economic impact, both on the teen parents and their children, as well as on society itself.
Teen parents are less likely to get a higher education, since many expectant teen mothers drop out of school, to care for their children.
Less educated people tend to earn less, which means they will pay less in taxes and will be more likely to depend on social aid. All this costs the country big money.
In 2010, teen pregnancy led to increased health care and foster care costs, increased incarceration rates among children of teen parents, and lost tax revenue because of lower educational attainment and income among teen mothers.
All this has cost U.S. taxpayers at least $9.4 billion.
The numbers speak for themselves. While 90 percent of women who do not have children as teenagers graduate from high-school, in the case of teen mothers the rate drops down to about 50 per cent.
Even more troubling, teenage pregnancy creates a vicious circle. The children of teenage mothers are more likely to have children as teenagers and repeat the circle. They also have lower school achievement, tend to drop-out of high school, are incarcerated at some point in their teenage years, and struggle to get employment as young adults.
Experience has proven certain factors increase these teenagers’ risks for pregnancy, the main ones being poverty, low educational attainment by parents, and lack of performance in school.
Every ethnic group, according to statistics, registered a decline in rates of teen pregnancy. The greatest decreases were recorded among African-American teens, a category which historically registered the most significant disparities, according to city officials. For this particular ethnic group, the teenage birth rate dropped, between 2011 and 2016, from 64.2 to 32 births per 1,000 girls. Nevertheless, African-American and Hispanic teenagers are still more than five times as likely to give birth than white teens.
As previously mentioned, in 2016, there were 24.6 births per 1,000 girls ages 15-19 in Chicago, the rate being 10.5-percent less than it was in 2015. Local officials are striving to bring the rate closer to the national average of 20.3 births per 1,000 girls. Still, the city’s teen birth rate has dropped 70 percent since 2000, compared to a 57-percent decline nationwide, a significant improvement.
Teen pregnancies are more likely to produce children with low birth weight and to cause infant mortality, this is why fewer teen births are good news for the overall health, Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Julie Morita said. “We know that when an individual waits to become a parent, both their health and the health of their children improve,” Morita said in a statement.
“A record low number of teen births means more Chicago teens can focus on their educations, work towards their goals and create better futures for themselves,” said Mayor Rahm Emanuel in a statement.
How was this achieved, one might ask? It took cohesive actions and various ways of educating young people about birth control and other related issues.
Under Emanuel’s leadership, CDPH put in place measures to reduce the teen birth rate and promote equity for youth sexual and reproductive health.
Education on birth control, abstinence and healthy relationships, as well as testing and treatment for sexually transmitted infections are programs developed by the CDPH through its Chicago Healthy Adolescents and Teens program and presented in select CPS high schools.
Results have begun to show. The teen birth rate has decreased by 47 percent since Mayor Emanuel took office in 2011, according to city officials.
The same sources say sexual health education has been taught to more than 45,000 youth, and more than 23,000 have been screened for sexually transmitted diseases in high schools, colleges and community-based organizations all over the city since March 2015.
“We know that comprehensive, medically accurate and age-appropriate sexual health education alongside access to health care improves the health of our young people,” Morita said. “By ensuring everyone has access to information and resources we can close the remaining disparities and help every teen grow into a healthy adult.”
Teenage pregnancy is not the only youth health-related area where Illinois still has to improve. Smoking prevention is one of these, with Illinois ranking 35th nationwide in funding for programs to prevent youths from using tobacco and to help smokers quit. Maybe some programs similar to those put in place to reduce teen birth rates would help the state advance in this area, too.