I came across this column in the NYTimes today and thought it was worth a few moments. It’s about a study–you can read the description here, but looks like you need a subscription to get to the real thing. It’s about the relationship between teen pregnancy and poverty. In addition to the usual statistics about poverty rates, it adds in considerations of income inequality. It appears that the higher the level of inequality (which speaking generally is the gap between rich and poor) the higher the teen pregnancy rate.
Part of what’s interesting is that the authors suggests reversing the ordinary reasoning that having kids in your teens may cause you to be poor (or poorer). Instead, they suggest that because you are poor (and particularly poor in a state where there is a high level of income inequality) you have less reason to invest in your own economic progress–say by completing your education. After all, you might reason it wouldn’t do you much good, given the basic inequality and the disadvantageous position you start in. Thus, you might just as well have kids.
One of the authors summarized what this means:
Teenage childbearing is “a symptom, not a cause” of poverty and economic immobility, Mr. Levine said in an interview.
That’s rather a striking thesis. It suggests (as the article goes on to note) that the best way to reduce teen pregnancy might be to eradicate poverty. (Current approaches tend to try to reduce teenage pregnancy in order to reduce poverty.)
It seems like this is a really provocative reorganization of how we think about cause and effect in this area. Who can say if it will really be born out. For now, though ,it is something to think about.