Study: Nearly 40 percent of births to high school dropouts
By Nick Tabor, New Era Senior Staff Writer
Nearly 40 percent of children born in Todd County from 2007 to 2009 were born to mothers without high school diplomas, according to state records.
It’s a figure widely disproportionate to the percent of adults over 24 who have finished high school or gotten equivalency degrees — 74.9 percent, according to U.S. Census data.
Regardless, it doesn’t bode well for the future of Todd County’s population, according to literature from Kentucky Youth Advocates. Children born in these circumstances have higher rates of infant mortality, and it can hurt their school readiness skills, academic achievement and health outcomes, the Kentucky Youth Advocates study reports.
Across the state, 20.6 percent of births from 2007 to 2009 were to mothers without high school degrees. Between 2004 and 2006, it was about 42.6 percent. But the rate in Todd actually jumped 5.5 percent in that same time.
Todd doesn’t have a particularly high rate of teen births, at least for Kentucky. The rate per 1,000 girls ages 15 to 19 is only about 42, compared to 52 across Kentucky. But the high school dropouts having babies could be any age.
Due to the holiday, the New Era could not reach officials from the Todd County Health Department or the school district for comment.
Because of Todd’s relatively small population, it didn’t take thousands of births to drive up the percentage. Between 2007 and 2009, there were 218 babies born to women without diplomas.
Kentucky Youth Advocates obtained this data from the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services.
Christian County had 822 births during those years to mothers without diplomas, which was 17.6 percent of all births. In Trigg County, there were 86 such births, or 19 percent.
In its study, Kentucky Youth Advocates concluded the best place to start addressing this issue, whether on the local or state level, is by raising graduation rates.
“Programs that combine a package of services, such as remedial education, vocational training, and day care services, as well as programs that provide financial incentives for teen mothers to return or stay in school, have shown success at preventing dropout and increasing completion rates,” the study reads.
But on the large scale, mothers who don’t have diplomas can take steps toward boosting their kids’ chances of graduating, according to the study.
Sending their kids to preschool helps, statistics show. And when mothers increase their education levels, even in their 20s or 30s, it can increase their young children’s language skills. On this last point, the study cites an article published by Wayne State University Press.
The study is called the 2012 Kids Count County Data Book. It has information on a broad range of poverty, education and school spending data.