Teen Motherhood At Historic Lows, But Child Poverty Up

Feb 11, 2015

The teen birth rate in Iowa is down more than 35 percent since the year 2000.

That’s according to the 2013 Iowa Kids Count report. The annual study released by the Des Moines-based Child and Family Policy Center charts trends in child wellbeing in the state of Iowa.

Iowa Kids Count Director Michael Crawford says the age of the mother correlates to a family’s income and therefore affects the economic wellbeing of a child.  He says that unmarried women who are under the age of 20 and don't have a high school diploma when they give birth, are 80 percent more likely to live in poverty.

"If you wait and you're married, over the age of 20, have even just a high school diploma...the chance of living in poverty is 8 percent," Crawford says. "So right there tells you just the opportunities that are taken away by a young person...giving birth before age 20."

Iowa’s drop in teen births follows national trends. The Centers for Disease Control says 2013 saw historically low rates of teen motherhood, with declines in all racial and ethnicity groups nationwide.

Despite the drop in teen motherhood, the Iowa Kids County study found the number of Iowa children living in poverty has grown from 10 to 16 percent since 2000, an increase of 49 percent. Crawford says despite this jump, Iowa still ranks better than most other states.

"I mean it's kind of a...sinking ship, where everybody is sinking at the same time," Crawford says. "Maybe we're just not sinking as fast as other states...but it's still something that we need to look at and work to turn around." 

The Annie E. Casey foundation says 23 percent of American child live in poverty.  Iowa ranks third in the national for the over-all economic wellbeing of children.