Panel: Teenage Pregnancy and Public Policy

Thursday, November 8, 2012: 10:15 AM-11:45 AM
Mencken (Sheraton Baltimore City Center Hotel)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Organizers:  Danielle Atkins, University of Georgia
Moderators:  Seth Chamberlain, Administration for Children and Families
Chairs:  W. David Bradford, University of Georgia

Teenage pregnancy represents a significant public health concern in the United States due to the documented negative health, social, and economic impacts associated with adolescent childbearing. Although teenage birth rates have been declining, rates of teenage pregnancy and births are higher in the U.S. than other industrialized nations. The papers in this session explore the determinants and consequences of teenage pregnancy as well as policies that may help prevent adolescent childbearing or improve outcomes for teenage mothers. The first paper by Adam Thomas, “Unintended Pregnancy and Public Policy,” sets the stage for the discussion by providing evidence about unintended pregnancy in the United States. He describes recent trends in unintended pregnancy, for both teens and adults. He then synthesizes literature on unintended pregnancy to identify its determinants and the effects of public policies aimed at reduction. Based on this evidence, he concludes that policy interventions focused on preventing unintended pregnancy, for both teens and adults, can be successful and cost-effective. The second paper by Jason Fletcher and Olga Yakusheva entitled, “Peer Effects on Teenage Fertility: Social Transmission Mechanisms and Policy Recommendations,” provides evidence concerning how peer networks play a role in teenage pregnancy. The results indicate that increased pregnancy among peers is associated with higher probabilities of pregnancy. The authors also provide evidence that the mechanism by which this effect occurs is through shaping social norms. This leads them to suggest that policies aimed at changing social norms about teenage pregnancy might be an effective prevention strategy. The third paper, “The Effect of State Contraceptive Parity Laws on Teen Birth Control Use,” by Danielle Atkins, W. David Bradford, and Vicky Wilkins focuses on how state policies regulating insurance coverage of contraceptives might affect adolescent contraceptive use, and therefore teenage pregnancy. The effect of state contraceptive parity laws, which require insurance coverage of contraceptives, on contraceptive use of teenagers is assessed using data from the Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS). The results inform if and how requiring parity for insurance coverage of contraceptives affects contraceptive use, and potentially pregnancy risk, for teenagers. The final paper by Melanie Guldi entitled, “Do Pregnant Teens Respond to Improved Opportunities? An Evaluation of Title IX of the Educational Amendments of 1972 to the Civil Rights Act of 1964,” rounds out the session by informing how policy may be used to ameliorate the negative consequences of teenage pregnancy. She examines how Title IX, which prohibited schools receiving federal funding from excluding pregnant/parenting students from the classroom, affected educational outcomes for this group of students. Her findings indicate that this policy change was associated with improved educational outcomes for teen mothers in areas with higher levels of teenage motherhood prior to the policy change.

Unintended Pregnancy and Public Policy
Adam Thomas, Georgetown University

Peer Effects On Teenage Fertility: Social Transmission Mechanisms and Policy Recommendations
Jason Fletcher, Yale University and Olga Yakusheva, Marquette University

The Effect of State-Level Sex Education Policies on Youth Sexual Behaviors
Danielle Atkins, University of Tennessee and W. David Bradford, University of Georgia

Do Pregnant Teens Respond to Improved Educational Opportunities?
Melanie Guldi, University of Central Florida

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