Since 1991, the teen birth rate in the United States -- the number of infants born to moms age 19 and younger -- has fallen, but more than 400,000 babies were born to teen moms in 2009, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. For these teen mothers, education is a major factor, both in terms of their immediate academic challenges and their long-term earning potential.
Teen moms are at high risk of not finishing high school, according to research published by TeenPregnancy.org in 2010. Only half of teen moms have a high school diploma, and fewer than 2 percent earn a college degree by the time they turn 30. Not surprisingly, 30 percent of these teen moms say that the pressures of parenthood and pregnancy played a significant role in their decision to drop out of school. Even when teen moms finish school, they typically do so two years behind their non-parent peers, according to MedlinePlus, an online health information resource maintained by the National Institutes of Health and the U.S. National Library of Medicine. At the same time, teens who drop out of school are more likely to become teen moms than teen girls who stay in school.
Lack of education may make it harder for teen moms to find work, which may partly explain why becoming a parent as a teenager doubles the likelihood that a young woman will live in poverty, according to MedlinePlus. But the problem goes deeper: Children born to teen moms are more likely to drop out of school themselves and tend to do worse in school, including being 50 percent more likely to be held back a grade, according to TeenPregnancy.org. And daughters of teen moms are more likely to become teen moms themselves.
Pregnant teens can help increase their chances of finishing school by making a plan while they’re pregnant that will help them establish a solid financial future, according to MedlinePlus. This may mean exploring alternative schools that include childcare facilities, finding childcare support to help with the baby during school hours, or looking into apprentice-type work programs that let teens learn employable skills.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one of the most effective ways to prevent education challenges for teen moms is to prevent teen pregnancy by making science-based sex education classes part of every school’s curriculum. Schools that have implemented these programs have seen significant drops in teen pregnancies, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.