Why Texas Has One Of the Highest Teen Birth Rates In The Country
Teen birth rates in the United States have been rapidly declining over the past two decades.
In 1991, the national birth rate for 15- to 19-year-olds was at 62 births per 1,000 females. Data from 2014 has that number below 25 births per 1,000 females. The rates have never been this low, and according to the Pew Research Center, they have fallen fast.
Just 10 years ago, in 2007, teen birth rates were at 41 births per 1,000 females.
Of course, all of this is great news for the United States. Aside from the health of mother and child, high teen birth rates also put the economy in jeopardy.
The National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy released a study which estimated that the US government spent $9.1 billion dollars of tax-payer dollars in costs related to teen childbearing.
Basically, less teenage mothers is a good thing. So what's going on in Texas?
A recent report from the Texas Freedom Network (TFN) found that 83 percent of schools in Texas either don't teach about contraceptives, or have no sex education at all.
Texas' rate of teen pregnancy is nearly double the national average, with 34.6 births per 1,000 teens, making it the fourth worst state in the country for teen birth.
Bleak, yes, but there is always room for improvement.
The study released by TFN also noted that 83 percent is a decline from the 94 percent from just 10 years ago. And although any progress is good, it's clear that there needs to be a change.
President of Advocates for Youth, Debra Hauser said the problem isn't just about laws or funding, it's about the culture.
She told Elite Daily,
With some of the southern states, adolescent sex and sexuality is demonized by the adults. They are really left without accurate and positive information for them to understand that the changes they are facing are normal.
But even with attitudes like this in the community, it seems adults do not want to face high teen birth rates and scores of unwed mothers. Sex education has to become comprehensive, as Texas adopted a "it's up to the parents to educate" mentality.
Although the federal government has the ability to allocate funds to school districts, it is ultimately up to local school boards.
States often are driven by what they perceive communities to want. Texas believes there will be controversy if they determine what sex ed looks like, yet parents are often surprised to learn that their kids' schools aren't teaching sex ed.
The fear that teaching teens about contraceptives, STDs, gender identity and so on will make them more sexually active is completely unsupported by the data, in Texas' case.
It actually has the opposite effect.
Parents also once disparaged MTV's "16 and Pregnant" and "Teen Mom" for promoting teen sex, when it in fact contributed to at least a third of the decline in teen births.
However, if your community still doesn't want to get behind the health of its children, there are other ways to educate them. Organizations around the country are forming to combat sexual ignorance.
AMAZE focuses on educating youth through short animated videos on a wide range of topics: gender identity, sexual orientation, STDs, etc. And Advocates for Youth works to educate parents, school boards and communities on what comprehensive sex ed does, and why it works.
"Humans are sexual beings from cradle to grave," Hauser says. "So it's important that communities recognize this and support their youth going through sexual development – because sex is going to happen either way."