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Paying Girls Not to Get Pregnant

With the recent rise in teen pregnancy, it's clear that efforts to get young people to either abstain from sex or use birth control are falling short.

Any ideas as to how to fix the problem are welcome, so it's not surprising that a program that aims to get girls through high school without getting pregnant is getting a lot of media attention. In short, the young women in the College Bound Sisters program at the University of North Carolina Greensboro are offered a simple bargain: They're paid a dollar for every day they don't get pregnant.

The program, funded through a state grant and private donations, is open only to girls ages 12-18 who have an older sister who had a baby as a teen. Participants have to express interest in attending college, can never have been pregnant themselves and are required to attend an hour-and-a-half-long weekly meeting at the university (so they have to live nearby). And they don't get to spend the money right away; it's socked away and disbursed upon the girls' enrolling in a college.

Seems fine to me -- even though nobody ever paid ME not to get pregnant. But some folks have raised objections, saying offering incentives for behaving well isn't appropriate; one source likened it to offering kids cash for not smoking pot. (I remember being jealous of friends who got paid for good grades; my parents told me they expected me to get good grades without being bribed.)

One odd thing about this story: The program is not new -- it's been around at least since 2002 and probably before -- and I can't figure out why it's suddenly in the news. I tried to contact the folks who run the program but hadn't heard from anyone yet. I want to know, for instance, how successful the program's been over the years and how many participants in fact go on to college, among other things. I'll post an update when I get return call.

What do you think? Is this dollar-a-day idea a good one that perhaps deserves to be implemented more broadly, or is it just a bribe?

By Jennifer LaRue Huget  |  June 29, 2009; 7:00 AM ET
Categories:  Family Health , Teens , Women's Health  
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You shouldn't have to pay girls not to get pregnant, especially since there isn't anything really stopping them from getting an abortion secretively. My parents didn't have to bribe me. I was focused more on achieving than having sex. It was enough that I had a real biological and emotional lecture regarding sex, contraception, and its implications. It was enough that my self esteem was constantly lifted and reinforced posistively. Needless to say, my mom was very open minded and did not fail to answer any questions that I may have had nor did she fail to embarass me uterly when she handed me a condom at 16 and said that although I trust that you're not, this was just in case you changed your mind--make sure you always protect yourself. The standards shouldn't be any different today than what worked 30 years ago. It's just that today, kids demand hard core reality-not storks and bees and hell. It makes no sense that a person can get condoms for free, but boys aren't educated about contraceptive use either, then the girls bare the full blamed for it and burden of children. Educate them, inspire them, and make contraceptives for women more easy to get and hopefully they won't need them because they won't be having sex so young and irresponsibly.

Posted by: lidiworks1 | June 29, 2009 8:44 AM | Report abuse

sounds like a plan. the 1600 or so dollars pales in comparison to supporting a baby on welfare. if a girl gets an abortion to cover it up, i still dont care. just dont make me pay to take care of someone else's baby who may or may not grow up to be a decent member of society

Posted by: makplan20002 | June 29, 2009 8:56 AM | Report abuse

One of the primary reasons a woman of any age postpones pregnancy is that she has plans for the future, and having a baby at that time would interfere with her realization of those plans. If, on the other hand, a young woman has no expectations for her future other than being a mom, what motivation does she have for delaying pregnancy? Any means of providing a girl with a new vision of her future, whether offering a realistic chance for further education or a pathway to an interesting career, should strengthen her resolve to postpone starting a family until she older.

Posted by: jblatt | June 29, 2009 10:29 AM | Report abuse

Sad, but better than the alternative. A second teen pregnancy is probably more than one family could bear anyway.

Posted by: sarahabc | June 29, 2009 10:57 AM | Report abuse

Sounds like a "Disrcimination Suit" to me. Boys should be paid not to have sex. Maybe we should pay welfare mothers not to have sex!!!

Posted by: doughboy96 | June 29, 2009 11:09 AM | Report abuse

Is having a child without means of supporting it child abuse?

Posted by: J264 | June 29, 2009 11:22 AM | Report abuse

This concept has been tried in other instances.

Whatever happened to the DC school that was going to pay kids for grades/homework/attendance? It got a lot of press last fall.

Posted by: RedBird27 | June 29, 2009 11:23 AM | Report abuse

I agree with doughboy 100%. If the girls should be paid for keeping their legs together, than boys should be paid for keeping their zippers up as well. Guess what everyone wins. Why you ask? First, there would be alot of unnecessary and unneeded pregnancies, even fewer abortions, less STD's, less kids on drugs and alcohol (because that is where alot of the unwanted sex originates) babies being placed alongside roads and dumpsters, reduction in prenatal problems for the mothers, babies and healthcare systems. Sounds like a plan, as screwed up as it may seem. I never thought in my lifetime I would say that, but this is a time where drastic measures need to be met. The day we have to bribe people to 'be good' unbelievable. How about we give them scholarships if they remain chaste as well. Better educated, more informed and articulate students who will be HIGHLY desirable to businesses and men and women. How novel. (No I don't toke or drink anymore, but I am a good Christian)

Posted by: jakesfriend1 | June 29, 2009 11:30 AM | Report abuse

"They're paid a dollar for every day they don't get pregnant."

Apparently its funded through a state grant. I hope this idiocy is funded by NC taxpayers. If I'm paying anyone not to get pregnant, I'm not very happy about it. Do I get paid for not being stupid as well?

Posted by: billy8 | June 29, 2009 11:58 AM | Report abuse

While I find the idea distasteful and so one-sided (reinforcing current attitudes for pregnancy responsibility), I realize that I am probably "paying" my daughter not to get pregnant by involving her in sports, taking her on trips, etc. The classic middle school existence manifests the opportunities to young girls that may not be seen in everyone's world.

Posted by: flabbergast | June 29, 2009 12:47 PM | Report abuse

How about we pay a $5,000 lump sum to any of these high-risk individuals who agree to be sterilized?

That would solve a LOT of problems.

Posted by: thermowax | June 29, 2009 12:49 PM | Report abuse

Well, in China , the policy has been for many years that only one child per family is allowed. So they offer various incentives (lower taxes, more education, housing, better jobs, etc) to families that stick to the one-child rule. The perks go away with each additional child born to a family.

Of course, abortions/sterilization are common to maintain this system. And women are often pressured into making these decisions against their own desires.

Families who lost their only child in the earthquake-caused collapse of their school mostly cannot conceive another child anymore. They have lost their future.

Paying people to either have or not have kids is just a bad idea.

Posted by: bernadete | June 29, 2009 12:49 PM | Report abuse

The payment plan sounds good to me. I'd also be willing to have my tax money provide qualified support for unmarried women who give birth to their babies rather than abort.

Posted by: jjj33 | June 29, 2009 1:00 PM | Report abuse

Paying incentive to prevent pregnancy is a good idea--these teens NEED money, but this plan should go farther--many of these girls have been cultivated as sex objects of adult men since age 8-10--that's how they end up pregnant as soon as they reach menses. Some intervention should be given before they reach first grade--education, knowledge about predators who will likely seduce them. Especially true of girls who have no fathers. AND, education should be offered adult men--aversion therapy, whatever.

Posted by: IIntgrty | June 29, 2009 1:22 PM | Report abuse

All puritanical wailing about "you shouldn't get paid to be good" aside, this is a wonderfully pragmatic and much needed program.

The USA has a teen pregnancy rate that is more than SEVEN times higher than the much-demonized oh-so-liberal Netherlands.

We can't call ourselves a first-world nation if we continue to have teen pregnancy rates that are simply unheard of in the rest of the western industrialized countries.

And what happens to these children of single, poor, teen-age mothers. Will they get the strong parenting necessary to succeed in life? Or will they be on the fast track to a life spent warehoused in our prisons?

America's imprisonment rate also happens to be seven times higher than the Netherlands. Coincidence?

Posted by: DupontJay | June 29, 2009 3:56 PM | Report abuse

Yes. It is a bribe. And what a paltry one at that. Really? This is hilarious.

Posted by: gwymer | June 29, 2009 3:57 PM | Report abuse

Pay the boys. It would be cheaper. I can think of several 'boys' who have children with several women, and most of these children are within a year old of each other. And jjj, your tax money already goes to support the children of unwed mothers.

Posted by: realgrrl | June 29, 2009 4:30 PM | Report abuse

The program is really paying young women to do well in school AND not get pregnant. Note that the money is disbursed only when the participants are enrolled in college. Good grades, test scores, community service are a must. I'm willing to bet that the program's "no pregnancy rule" is really just one part of a comprehensive tutoring/mentoring program targeted at at-risk teenage girls.

I seem to remember a philantropist, back in the 80s, who sponsored an entire NYC kindergarten class. He said he would pay college tuition in full to whichever students could graduate high school without doing drugs or getting pregnant (can't recall if the boys were likewise required not to become fathers). Anyway, the promise of a hopeful future was enough to make the experiment a large success.

Posted by: jb1151 | June 29, 2009 4:30 PM | Report abuse


Posted by: mortified469 | June 29, 2009 5:23 PM | Report abuse

Only the stupid people are breeding

Posted by: kman123 | June 29, 2009 7:26 PM | Report abuse

I don't see how this is fair to any girl who was responsible enough not to get pregnant. And what about those who don't have an older sister who did get pregnant?

Sorry, it's wrong! Teach responsibility, don't bribe!

Posted by: alysheba_3 | June 29, 2009 7:48 PM | Report abuse

Do you get twice as much money if you promise not to have twins?

Posted by: Curmudgeon10 | June 29, 2009 8:26 PM | Report abuse

What happened to being accountable for your own actions? If you are stupid enough to have unprotected sex, you are accountable for the results. Stop making excuses and definitely don't reinforce bad behavior by paying for it.

Posted by: socialdirector4u | June 30, 2009 1:03 PM | Report abuse

Hey, I never got pregnant! May I have some money too, please? I haven't even had sex for years, is there a prise for that?!

Posted by: smacked1 | July 1, 2009 5:57 PM | Report abuse

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