Once and teenagers must control their impulses and be

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once, and teenagers must control their impulses and be responsible about their futures (1991, p. 81). But here’s the rub. Teenagers are not all the same. Many are not well prepared for the challenges of puberty, do not have sup- port from caring adults when they make difficult decisions, and do not have parents who can or will bail them out when they make mistakes. In fact, as we discussed in Chapter 10, many economically disadvantaged girls not only lack supportive caring adults in their lives but also must often fight off adult sexual abuse and coercion. Finally, and perhaps most important, many poor youth are different from middle-class and wealthy teens in that they see little hope that their lives will improve—there are no bright horizons in their futures. As a result, they often drift into pregnancy and then into parenthood (Furstenberg, Brooks-Gunn, & Chase-Landale, 1989). Recent work by economists Kearney and Levine (2012) backs up this explanation. In their in-depth comparison of geographic variation in teen births across states in the United States and across countries, they found that income inequality played a central role. Thus, we conclude that women with low socioeconomic status have more teen, nonmarital births when they live in higher-inequality locations, all else equal. The proximate mechanism driving this finding is that conditional on getting pregnant, more of these girls choose to carry their pregnancy to term. Indeed, our estimates suggest that income inequality can explain a sizable share of the geographic variation observed in the teen childbearing rate, on the order of 10 to 50 percent. We believe these results are consistent with the large body of work in other social science disciplines arguing that social marginalization and hopelessness are to blame for young, nonmarital childbearing. To the extent that greater levels of inequality are associated with a heightened sense of eco- nomic despair and marginalization, our empirical findings support this claim. (2012, pp. 157–158) Given the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act, or what has become known as welfare reform, and the replacement of Copyright ©2018 by SAGE Publications, Inc. This work may not be reproduced or distributed in any form or by any means without express written permission of the publisher. Draft Proof - Do not copy, post, or distribute
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336 PART FOUR: Children, Social Problems, and the Future of Childhood Aid to Families With Dependent Children with Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, the debate about welfare and teen pregnancy subsided. However, most research suggests that welfare reform has not reduced teen- age fertility (Hao & Cherlin, 2004). In any case, with welfare reform and the decline in teen births, there has been a shift to a new debate regarding the best programs of sex education for teens. Here social conservatives argue strongly for abstinence-only programs, whereas Progressives stress the need for comprehensive sex education involving both abstinence and instruction about the types, availability, and use of contraception. In the George W. Bush
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