Teen pregnancy is a major problem in the United States. There are significantly more teenage pregnancies in the United States than all other developing countries (Cleo & Moore, 1995). According to The Complete and Authoritative Guide: Caring for Your Teenager, out of every five women under twenty, two will become pregnant. Teen pregnancy rates have increased 23% from 1972 to 1990 (Napier, 1997) In order to come to a solution it is important to examine why teenage pregnancy is so high in the United States. When analyzing teen pregnancy, an effective way to get to the root of the problem is using the critical component of the sociological imagination. Critically, the two most prevalent ways to look at teen pregnancy are through a conservative or a liberal lens. Each side has their own answer to the question, what causes teen pregnancy, and how can we prevent it?
When the socioeconomic factor is examined the question we may ask is, "does welfare motivate kids to have kids?" According to conservatives, people with low incomes are lazy and unmotivated to work. Conservatives believe welfare does motivate teen pregnancy. You could look at the stereotypes of welfare mothers teaching their young daughters to get pregnant. The common misconception is that poor teens purposely have children so they can live off welfare all their lives.
Liberals have another way of answering if welfare causes teen pregnancy; they look at the data. Throughout history, welfare has not been a factor for teen pregnancy. According to Sugrue Thomas, teen motherhood declined in the 1960's and 70's, when welfare was more generous (American Families: A Multicultural Reader), and rose in a period when welfare benefits had significantly declined (Ralley). Gabriel Ralley further proves that the "appeal of welfare" is not the cause of teen pregnancies. Ralley says, "The five states with the highest rates of unmarried teenage pregnancy offer welfare payments that are of the seven lowest in the country" (pg#).
Liberals believe socioeconomic status is a factor in teen pregnancy. They want to put a stop to blaming the youth. Liberals understand it is time to examine why some teens want to become parents. When teens don't see a successful future for themselves, getting pregnant isn't that bad of an option. Factors in teen pregnancy are a perception of unattainable goals, and lack of educational and occupational prospects, both prevailing in poor communities. "Dash (1989) concluded that child-rearing provides a tangible economic and psychological asset for black teens whose future prospects are bleak." There are more African Americans living in extreme poverty than Latinos and Whites (Ralley, pg#). In the journal article, "Internal Poverty and Teen Pregnancy," the life options model is proposed. The life options model suggests that, "If disadvantaged youths do not perceive that doors are open to them, it is perhaps difficult for them to see teen pregnancy as closing any doors"...