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Poverty and Teen Pregnancy

Throughout the developed world, teenage pregnancy is more common among young people who have been disadvantaged in childhood and have low expectations of education or the job market.  The literature shows that youth living in poverty have a teen pregnancy rate which is five times the average [1]. Socio-economic circumstances seem to play a major role in rates of teen pregnancy. There may be a growing “lost generation“ of young people who see no reason not to get pregnant. For some disadvantaged youth, particularly for girls whose self esteem tends to drop as they mature, sexuality may be all they have to value. Lack of opportunity and hope for the future, have been identified as a driving force behind high rates of teen pregnancy in Canada. Children of teenage parents are more likely to have problems and to eventually become teenage parents themselves, thus perpetuating the cycle of poverty begun by a teenage birth [2].

Source: Health Canada website and Media Photo Gallery, Health Canada, Reproduced with the permission of the Minister of Public Works and Government Services Canada, 2006.

And things are getting worse

Young women from low income families are getting pregnant at a higher rate than those from middle and upper income families. Poverty rates among youth living in large urban centers rose substantially between 1990 and 1995 [3]. Social researchers have noted a growing “underclass“ in Canada comprised of individuals who have less and less access to economic security and opportunity. The Canadian Council on Social Development also reports growing income disparities between the poorest and the richest in Canada [2].


1. Stonehocker, Diane. “Bonnyville Teen Pregnancy Research Report” prepared for Bonnyville Healthy Babies Program and Lakeland Regional Health Authorities, Bonnyville, Alberta, Junne 1997.

2. Pro-Action, Postponement, and Preparation/Support. A Framework for Action to Reduce the Rate of Teen Pregnancy in Canada. Prepared for the CAPC/CPNP National Projects Fund Health Canada. Retrieved August 2005 from

3. National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancies, Press Release (August 8, 2000)

All references for this section