Lets return to exhibit 114 all of the other countries

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Let’s return to Exhibit 11.4. All of the other countries provide more exten- sive benefits to poor mothers (including child care, medical care, food sup- plements, housing, and family allowances) than those provided in the United States (Clearinghouse on International Developments in Child, Youth and Family Policies, 2010; E. Jones et al., 1985). Yet almost all these countries have substantially lower teen pregnancy, abortion, and marital and non- marital birth rates. Many conservatives eschew such comparative data, arguing that what might work in the more collectivist welfare states of western Europe will not work in the United States. On the surface, such an argument may seem to have merit. For example, from 1976 to 1992, about 42% of all single women receiving Aid to Families With Dependent Children in the United States were, or had been, teenage mothers (American Psychological Association, 1995; General Accounting Office, 1994, p. 8). But is there evi- dence that specific U.S. welfare policies play a significant role in adolescents’ fertility-related behavior? Although researchers on this question are not in complete agreement, reviews of the welfare incentive literature conclude that welfare benefits do not serve as a reasonable explanation for variations in pregnancy and childbearing rates among unmarried adolescents (American Psychological Association, 1995). What the research does find is that pov- erty, race and ethnicity, and education—not specific welfare policies—have the most significant effects on teenage childbearing. Luker nicely summa- rized the general findings of this research: First, since poor and minority youth tend to become sexually active at an ear- lier age than more advantaged youngsters, they are “at risk” for a longer period of time, including years when they are less cognitively mature. Young teens are also less likely to use contraceptives than older teenagers. Second, the use of contraception is more common among teens who are white, come from more affluent homes, have higher educational aspirations, and who are doing well in school. And, finally, among youngsters who become pregnant, abortions are 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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CHAPTER 11: Children, Social Problems, and Society 335 more common if they are affluent, white, urban, of higher socio-economic status, get good grades, come from two-parent families, and aspire to higher education. Thus more advantaged youth get filtered out of the pool of young women at risk of teen parenthood. (1991, p. 76) “But wait a minute!” say conservatives and also many Americans who view problems like teenage pregnancy individualistically rather than struc- turally. Why can’t these disadvantaged teens act more responsibly and sensi- bly, more like their advantaged counterparts? In this view, noted Luker, the teenage pregnancy problem is cast as a universal: Everyone was a teenager
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