FutureWire - futurism and emerging technology

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Red vs. Blue Divide in Teen Parenthood

Statistics showing the number of teen parents (per 1000 girls 15-19) reveal much higher numbers in the so-called "red" states than the "blue" ones. Mississippi has the highest teen birth rate (64.7), while New Hampshire has the lowest (20). In fact, in the chart below, there's an almost even divide in birth rates between red and blue states:

Click for full-size image

Liberals point to these statistics to argue that sex education in these states -- which obsensibly places a higher value on abstinence education -- is not working. Conservatives counterargue that the data simply shows that girls in blue states are more likely to seek abortions. However, the data here is too inconclusive for making either assertion. Among the factors that may be weighing into these figures are:

  • The number of married teens in these statistics (a table of teen pregnancies to girls under 15 might be more revealing).
  • Population differences in states, which can make the data less clear-cut.
  • Economic and ethnic breakdowns.
In order to make better sense of these figures, more research -- without political or moral baggage -- needs to be done to determine what works and what doesn't in sex ed. We also need to better understand the cultural drivers that would cause such a sharp divide between red and blue states.