The High Costs of Teen Pregnancy

It’s easy to think that teen pregnancy doesn’t affect you—especially if you don’t have children—but consider the hidden expenses of South Carolina’s high teen pregnancy rate. 

Teen pregnancy costs South Carolina taxpayers at least $166 million in 2010.

The majority of these costs are associated with negative consequences for the children of teen mothers.

Because many teen mothers live in poverty, care for both mother and child can be publicly funded for years, including assistance programs for food, medical care and childcare. In addition, daughters of teen mothers are more likely to become teen mothers themselves, creating cyclical poverty over generations.

Read on to discover the hidden costs of teen pregnancy. 


The link to drop-out. Teen pregnancy is a leading cause of high school drop-out. In fact, only 51% of young women who become mothers as teens get their high school degree by the age of 22 compared to 89% of young women who were not teen parents.

The outcomes of the child. Negative outcomes from teen childbearing also weigh on the child as children of teen mothers are less prepared to enter the school system and score lower on measures of school readiness. Plus, they are 50% more likely to repeat a grade, less likely to complete high school, and have lower performance on standardized tests.


Pregnant teens are more likely to drop out of high school, and often must do so to find employment to support themselves and their babies. Because they haven’t finished their education, teen moms are forced to take low paying jobs, and many live in poverty and rely on public assistance programs. An investment in teen pregnancy prevention will ultimately have a ripple effect on multiple social issues in addition to saving taxpayers millions.

  • Two-thirds of families living in poverty were begun by a young unmarried mother.
  • Almost half of all teen mothers began receiving welfare within five years of the birth of their first child.
  • 52% of all mothers on welfare had their first child as a teenager.
  • Nearly 80% of fathers do not marry the teen mother of their child and pay less than $800 annually in child support.
  • In SC, 22% of children live in poverty - that is less than $17,000 for a family of three.

Child Well-Being

Children born as a result of an unplanned pregnancy are more likely to experience adverse health and developmental consequences. Teen mothers are more likely to deliver pre-term and low birth weight babies, two factors which raise the probability of health problems for a child. In addition, one-third of teens do not see a healthcare provider during the first trimester of pregnancy, increasing the odds of a baby born with complications. In addition, children of teen parents suffer higher rates of abuse and neglect than children of mothers that delayed childbearing.

In South Carolina:

  • 13% of babies born to 15-17 year olds and 11% of babies born to 18-19 year olds are low birth weight.
  • 15% of pregnant 18-19 year olds on Medicaid in 2006 were abused as children.
  • 13% of pregnant 18-19 year olds on Medicaid in 2006 had high risk pregnancies.

Foster Care

Teen pregnancy affects the foster care system in two major ways: teens in foster care are more likely to become pregnant, and babies born to teen mothers are more likely to be placed in foster care. Investing in prevention would mean fewer children in foster care and less stress on the foster care system.

  • Teen girls in foster care are 2.5 times more likely to experience a pregnancy than their peers not in foster care. 
  • Teen mothers aged 17 and younger are 2.2 times more likely to have a child placed in foster care than mothers who delay childbearing until age 20 or 21.
  • There are more than 7,500 children in foster care in South Carolina.
  • 6% of Medicaid enrolled 18-19 year olds who became pregnant in 2006 were in foster care as children.

The Transition out of Foster Care

The shift from foster care to adulthood is challenging for many youth, especially if they are teen parents. One study of teen parents formerly in foster care found that:

  • Nearly 75% of teen parents formerly in foster care are unemployed.
  • 75% were unemployed
  • Nearly 25% had been convicted of a crime after leaving foster care
  • 71% received need-based government assistance

Reducing the Rate of Teen Pregnancy

Between 1991 and 2017 the teen birth rate decreased by 70% for 15-19 years olds. Evidence-based education is working, and we need to keep fighting for access for every South Carolinian.

Want to know how you can help?

Talk to your friends.

South Carolinians are encouraged to be vocal in their support of comprehensive sexuality education for youth. Remind neighbors, school administrators, and politicians that research shows the vast majority of South Carolinians believe teen pregnancy is an important problem and support sex education in schools.

Talk to your school. 

Work with your local school district's Comprehensive Health Education Committee to ensure age-appropriate, science-based teen pregnancy prevention programs are available for middle and high school students. Also, encourage your school district to utilize experienced, knowledgeable, and well-trained sex educators like Fact Forward.

Talk to your representatives.

Let your representatives know that you care about evidence-based reproductive health education in South Carolina. How to contact your legislator