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Teen Births Cost Mississippi 155-million Every Year

By Jeffrey Hess | Published 07 Sep 2011 03:52pm | comments
Shekeyer Perkins had her first child when she was 16 years old.

Teen pregnancy in Mississippi costs the state around 155-million dollars every year, that's according to a new study being released today. MPB's Jeffrey Hess report that the numbers underscore the high price of having the highest teen birth rate in the nation.

76-percent of Mississippi teens report having had sex by the end of their senior year....that's contributing to the state's highest in the nation teen birth rate.

Rachael Canter is with the non-profit Mississippi First.

"Teens in Mississippi have sex at greater rates and younger age than kids in other parts of the country. We don't necessarily think that would be the case because we are in the bible belt, we are the heart of the bible belt in some ways," Canter said.

The high birth rate cost the state 155-million a year in lost tax revenue and social service expenses.

That's money that could be used to employee thousands teachers, firefighters, and nurses says Jamie Holcomb with The women's fund of Mississippi, one of the study's main authors.

"We could also send 60-thousand Mississippians to a two year college. Many other professions we could be spending this money on. But really the pre-k number is the big number. 96% of all four-year olds could go to pre-K," Holcomb said.

The women's fund is using the findings to urge schools to adopt abstinence-plus sex education to reduce the teen pregnancy rate.

22-year old Shekeyer Perkins had her first child at 16 years old.

Perkins, who is pregnant with her third child, says she knew about safe sex but didn't practice it.

"I just knew you will catch a sexually transmitted disease. That's it. That's all I knew. (reporter: you didn't think you would be the one to get pregnant) No," Perkins said.

Perkins says it is hard for Mississippi teens to get good information and handle the tremendous pressure to have sex.

"Peer pressure and some of them don't get 'the talk' about safe sex. Either their parents don't talk to them or they don't listen or they think it is cool. I just wanted to try it because I knew everyone else was talking about it," Perkins said.

Perkins says many of her friends became pregnant and dropped out of school, but she had strong support from her parents and was able to finish high school and enter college to work on a degree in radiology.

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Shekeyer Perkins had her first child when she was 16 years old.


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