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Teen Pregnancies

July 28, 1996

* "Poverty Drives Girls Into Early Motherhood" (Commentary, July 21) by Ruth Rosen amply demonstrates how you can build a case if you select the "right" statistics and leave out those that blow you out of the water. The case here is that teenage pregnancy does not cause poverty. One fact offered is that 80% of teenage mothers grew up in extreme poverty. The conclusion? Poverty causes teenage pregnancy, not the reverse.

But why does it have to be one way or the other? Poverty does contribute mightily to teenage pregnancy, but teenage pregnancy contributes even more mightily to poverty. It's circular--viciously so.

One fact Rosen leaves out is that two-thirds of black babies are now born out of wedlock. Another is that longitudinal studies inform us that these babies are almost all raised in poverty, the poverty that produces teen pregnancy. This is not to stigmatize blacks. White out-of-wedlock births are now approaching one-third, and Latina out-of-wedlock births are growing faster than the other two groups.

ANN ALPER

Pacific Palisades

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