Dylan Matthews reports on a massive release of child well-being data from the Annie E. Casey Foundation. Matthews provides this incredible graph of the correlation of childhood poverty rates and teen births:
Childhood poverty explains 78 percent of teenage births. In addition to this finding, recall the study from a short time ago about the economic consequences of teenage pregnancy. The study found that having a kid as a teen does not actually worsen one’s future economic circumstances. The reason individuals that have children in their teens face greater future economic hardship is because they are already on track for that greater future economic hardship. They would have faced the same levels of future economic hardship whether they had a kid as a teen or not.
Both studies point to poverty as the real driver of all of this. Why do poorer teens have children at higher rates? Poverty. Why do poorer teens have poorer economic futures? Poverty. It’s poverty all the way down. In a political climate that was remotely serious, this would be great news. We know how to dramatically reduce poverty in society: give money to poor people. But in a society that flatly refuses to address poverty head on, identifying poverty as the cause of some problem is terrible news. It means that the problem will remain unsolved.