Each year, nearly half of all pregnancies in the United States and 38 percent of births are unintended. Having a child before one is ready is a major risk factor for young people and for the children they bear. When young adults become accidental parents, it disrupts educational plans, derails economic prospects, and greatly diminishes their children’s opportunities for success. Rates of unintended pregnancy across population groups reflect similar disparities in levels of social mobility. Unmarried women, black women, and women with less education or income are still much more likely to experience unintended pregnancies and births compared with married, white, college-educated, and high-income women (and have lower rates of social mobility).
The high rate of unintended pregnancies stems from a confluence of causes: poor knowledge about contraception options, a lack of high-quality counseling in the healthcare system about contraception, and uneven access to its safest and most effective forms. Eliminating these barriers is essential to ensure that all people are able to plan when and with whom to have children.
This concept paper, a result of Bridgespan’s recent research, “Billion Dollar Bets” to Create Economic Opportunity for Every American, explores potential solutions to reducing unintended pregnancies in the United States. It focuses on building a national initiative that encourages and supports young women and their partners to make informed decisions about when to have a child and improving access to the most effective contraceptive methods. It also outlines the potential of seven investments philanthropists could make to improve and grow promising programs and to shift incentives and behaviors in an effort to reduce unintended pregnancies. Lastly, it puts the investments into economic perspective, quantifying their projected impact on the lifetime earnings of individuals and their families and highlighting for philanthropists the return on investment of such commitments.
 "Intended and unintended births in the United States: 1982-2010." National Health Statistics Reports. CDC, 2012.
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