Almost half of all pregnancies in the US are unintended, a fact well known and still much debated. But now a study by the Brookings Institution, based on 2001 data, shows that the median government cost to provide care for these mothers and their children is about $9,000.
Putting a figure to this taxpayer subsidy should help further the debate over how to prevent such pregnancies.
“Unintended pregnancy likely represents a substantial cost to taxpayers, draining already tight federal and state budget,” write the study’s authors, Emily Monea and Adam Thomas.
A majority of these babies were born to unmarried, low-income women who can’t afford the cost of delivery as well as prenatal and postnatal care. About 8 percent of unintended pregnancies result in abortion; in 2001, such abortions numbered 168,601 and cost the government about $567 each.
The study also estimates the total savings to taxpayers if all unintended pregnancies could be prevented: from $4.7 billion to $6.7 billion. Such a huge sum makes it compelling to spend money on pregnancy prevention – such as better education for low-income girls.
“Children whose births resulted from unintended pregnancy are less likely than other children to succeed in school and are more likely to live in poverty, claim public assistance and engage in delinquent and criminal behavior later in life,” the study notes.
Two-parent families are still considered the norm in the US. A poll earlier this year by the Pew Research Center found most Americans regard single motherhood as detrimental to society, although they look favorably toward other types of nontraditional families.