OUT-OF-WEDLOCK BIRTHS: States to Receive Money for Decline
California is one of four states, in addition to the District of Columbia, that have been selected by HHS to receive a portion of the $100 million Congress set aside for states to lower their out-of-wedlock birth rates. The AP/San Francisco Examiner reports that California, Michigan, Alabama, Massachusetts and the District will split the proceeds if they can also prove, by September, that the number of abortions in their respective states declined between 1995 and 1997. The bonuses are based on statistics compiled from 1996 and 1997.
Money, Luck, and Timing?
HHS spokesperson Michael Kharfen, said of the winners, "Why these five states? I don't think there's much we have to say on that." Although the statistics used for the contest coincide with the beginning of welfare reform, Stephanie Ventura of the National Center for Health Statistics says the decline "definitely can't just be from the welfare reform because of the timing. It has to be other things." Kristin Moore, a researcher at Child Trends, said, "There is no question that the large financial bonus has created interest in the states and a lot of programs and policies large and small have been implemented. But it probably was not in time to have caused these declines." Joel Sanders, Alabama's welfare program director, credits welfare changes and a strong economy, but did not downplay the role of luck, noting that most states currently have tough welfare rules and strong economies. State officials in California and Massachusetts gave credit to programs designed to prevent teenage pregnancy, better access to birth control and changing attitudes toward unwed motherhood. According to Anna Ramierz, head of California's Office of Family Planning, "It's a combination of programs and changing social mores among families in California, where out-of-wedlock pregnancy is no longer easily accepted." The District may have been helped by demographics, as the majority of the city is African-American, and the out-of-wedlock birth rate has been dropping in that population. Nationally, out-of-wedlock pregnancies have leveled off since 1994, after a sharp increase during the 1980s and early 1990s. The overall rate was unchanged between 1994-95 and 1996-97, but 12 states saw drops, of which the winners were most notable. Congress has set aside an additional $100 million will be given out in each of the next several years (Meckler, 8/8).