Tired of hearing from dim-witted congressmen about the moral decline of our youth, as evidenced by teen pregnancy? Tired of hearing from morally bankrupt radio preachers about how the 60's trashed our cultural values?
So am I.
So I after hearing this story for the millionth time I looked up the U.S. Department of Health records on birth and abortion rates among women ages 15 to 19 during the last half of this century. You can find them at the following links.http://www.ed.gov/pubs/YouthIndicators/indtab06.html
For 1960 they give only the birth rate. For 1991 they give the birth rate, abortion rate, estimated miscarriage rate, and estimated pregnancy rate (the sum of the previous three). The miscarriage rate is calculated as 10% of the abortion rate plus 20% of the birth rate. Presumably it's weighted like that because by the time the average abortion takes place, the chances of a miscarriage are only half what they are for a live birth.
We can calculate the 1960 pregnancy rate by the same method, making the
assumption that miscarriage rates are comparable.
For 1991 we have 105.7 pregnancies per 1000 women.
For 1960 we have 89.1 + 89.1 * 0.20 = pregnancies per 1000 women.
"But wait!" I hear you cry. "What happened to the moral decline of America's youth??"
It seems (rather unremarkably) that our youth are not much more reckless than they were before the 60's. In fact, the peak of teen pregnancy seems to have occurred during the 50's. Perhaps we should call them "the decadent 50's".
While people haven't changed, the social institution of marriage has. Few people today see any advantage to a teenage wedding. Few feel pregnancy, of itself, is enough of a reason to get married.
Why have attitudes changed? Perhaps because women have financial choices today where they had none in the 50's. A woman today can choose not to get married as a teenager, without worrying overly much about how she will get by. Similarly, a pregnant woman today has the option of supporting herself, while in the 50's her only financial option was to get married.
I'm generally opposed to blink tags, but this time I couldn't