State abstinence education programs and teen birth rates in the US
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Title V, Section 510 of the Social Security Act, passed in 1996 and implemented in 1998, appropriates funding to states for the purpose of educating minors on the benefits of abstinence before marriage. Despite considerable research on the impact of abstinence education on teen fertility outcomes, high quality population-level studies on state abstinence education using panel data are absent. This paper uses state-level data to analyze the impact of abstinence education on the birth rates for teens 15–17 years by evaluating the Title V, Section 510 State Abstinence Education (SAE) program. For an average state, increasing spending by $50,000/year on SAE can help avoid approximately four births to teenagers, resulting in net savings of $15,652 to the public for each birth avoided.
KeywordsTeen birth rates State abstinence education program Title V, Section 510
JEL ClassificationJ12 J13 I280
I thank Naci Mocan for many insights on this project, Carter Hill and the participants at the Louisiana State University Department of Economics weekly seminar presentations, Bob Patterson and Maureen Duran of Administration for Children and Families (ACF) and Patty Mc Grew for providing helpful comments and suggestions. I am grateful to the editor and two anonymous referees whose suggestions improved the paper substantially.
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