We know that babies are expensive.
But when it comes to teen pregnancy, a new study from the Journal of Economic Perspectives found that teen mothers aren’t poor because they have babies—they have babies because they’re poor.
Slate reports that the researchers found the biggest factors contributing to teen pregnancy are lack of education and the presence of income inequality—that is, a teenager who has less education and lives in a state with a sizable income gap is more likely to have a child.
(Income inequality was not measured as 99%-versus-1%. Instead, it was measured as “the gap between poor people and the local typical household.”)
This was determined by comparing data on miscarriage rates and finding that young women who miscarried (didn’t have a baby) and women who delivered (did have a baby) had “similarly bleak economic outcomes.”
Therefore, it wasn’t the baby that made the difference. Researchers also compared data on the teen mothers to their childless sisters and found that the economic trajectory for both sets of women was similar.
Slate puts it well when it writes, “teen motherhood is much more a consequence of intense poverty than its cause.”