There's not much constituency for this issue, and no political candidates are eager to talk about it. But unwanted children are a huge problem for our society. They are not well-cared for. They are at higher risk for addiction, for dropping out of school, for producing another generation of unwanted children. They require more than their share of educational resources and statistically they are less likely to give back to the economy.
None of this is the children's fault. Whatever we do, it is a moral imperative not to further punish children who are already at a disadvantage. But we as a society need urgently to address the issue in a way that is more effective than wagging our fingers at lascivious teenagers.
Make them pay. Require a license to have a baby. Sanction deadbeat dads. Throw the criminal justice system at the whole family. These are knee-jerk reactions from a culture steeped in racism and obsessed with punitive measures that make us feel self-righteous, whether or not they actually address the problem.
These numbers were coming down during the Clinton and Bush years, stalled in the Obama Administration. The numbers are still shockingly high. 40 births per 1000 per year translates to 1 girl in 5 becoming a mother before she's out of high school. Still children themselves, these girls are rarely mature enough to care for a child. The child will suffer, and so will the teenage girl, whose life must be centered around childcare during the decade when she might be developing her own interests and beginning a career.
I hope readers will comment and suggest their own ideas Here is my modest proposal.
Every teen in America receives a $1,000-a-month stipend beginning at age 15 and continuing until age 25 or until they become a parent, whichever comes first. Determining who is a parent is straightforward for the mother. The system will require mothers be encouraged to identify the father of their child. In disputed cases, we must rely on DNA testing. For $100 and a half ounce of saliva, today's technology will confirm parenthood pretty reliably. Boys must be required to submit a saliva sample in order to be eligible for the $1,000/month. This is an invasion of privacy, I know, and I don't like it, but it seems to me better than the alternatives. In the long run, the cost of the stipends will be paid back many times over in savings from Medicaid, special ed, crime, and prisons.