Why are low-income teens more likely to get pregnant?

What does economic status have to do with sexual health?

The U.S. birth rate for teenage women aged 15 to 19 is at an all-time low. According to the CDC, the number of teens giving birth has dropped 8 percent since 2014.

But, the U.S. teen pregnancy rate is still significantly higher than in other western industrialized nations, especially in upstate New York. Syracuse and Onondaga County have a significant teen pregnancy problem. Teen pregnancy rates per 1,000 are some of the highest in upstate New York. Studies show that unfavorable socioeconomic conditions, low-income, and poor education are partially to blame.

What does economic status have to do with sexual health?

Some researchers suggest teen childbearing is so high in the U.S. because young women "choose nonmarital motherhood at a young age instead of investing in their own economic progress because they feel they have little chance of advancement."

Other sources, like the CDC, say things like poor education, few opportunities for "positive youth involvement," and being in the child welfare system all increase a teen's risk of pregnancy. In fact, young women living in foster care are twice as likely to become pregnant than those not in foster care, in most cases as the result of abuse and neglect.

Lastly, the parent's education levels also play a role in the risk of teenagers becoming pregnant. According to one study, "young women whose parents have more than a high school education, who live with both parents, and who attend church delay the timing of first sexual intercourse and are more likely to use a contraceptive." Teenagers who have undergone changes in family structure are at an increased risk of having a child between the ages of 15 to 19.

How can teens take action?

If you're sexually active (or planning on becoming sexually active), talk with your health care provider about birth control options. Many health clinics provide free or low-cost counseling and reproductive health services, including birth control, for teens (it's required by law! Check out the Title X family planning page for more information).

Without any kind of protection, couples who regularly have sex have an 85 percent chance of getting pregnant within a year. Explore different methods of birth control, effectiveness of each one, and how to properly use them. The CDC says it best, "The best birth control for you is the one you use the correct way, each and every time you have sex!"

How can parents help their teen make healthy choices about sex?

There are steps you, the parent, can take to help your teen prevent pregnancy. This might be an uncomfortable topic, but you play a powerful role in providing your child with information about reproductive health, birth control, and healthy relationships.

Research shows that teens who talk with their parents about sex, relationships, birth control, and pregnancy use birth control more often and have better communication with their sexual partners. The CDC offers multiple resources full of information and tips to help you talk with your teen about sex, birth control, relationships, pregnancy, and other related topics.

This article is for informational purposes only. If you have any concerns about your sexual health or think you may be pregnant, please speak with your doctor.

ACR Health is committed to providing comprehensive, evidence-based sexual health education for teenagers. For more information, call 800-475-2430 or visit www.acrhealth.org/youth/CAPP.