October 19, 2021

Fewer Young Parents in America, But Millions Still Need Support

The share of youth and young adults ages 18 to 24 who are parents in the United States has been declining in recent decades, and fell to 7% in 2015–2019. According to the latest data in the KIDS COUNT Data Center, this figure also declined for all racial and ethnic groups and for all states from 2006–2010 to 2015–2019.

Cross-sector efforts have been focused on reducing unplanned pregnancy among youth for many years, and these efforts are working. However, while the share of young parents is decreasing, the nation still has more than 2.1 million teens and young adults with children who need support navigating the difficult transitions to adulthood and parenthood.

A recent Annie E. Casey Foundation report on young parents described common challenges for this group, including financial and housing instability, interrupted education, employment obstacles, parenting stress, health issues and difficulty accessing quality child care and health care. The same report also found that 3.4 million U.S. children live with parents ages 18 to 24, and nearly 40% of them (mostly infants, toddlers and preschoolers) live in poverty.

Research indicates that providing support to young families at this vulnerable time could yield lifelong benefits. Both young parents and their young children are going through critical phases of brain development, making this a key opportunity to support both groups as they mature cognitively. Policymakers and others can help ensure that these parents have connections with caring adults and mentors, educational and workforce training opportunities, access to quality health care and child care, paid time off from work and other basic forms of support, setting them on a path toward family and economic stability.

Young Parents Data by State and Territory

At the state level in 2015–2019, the share of young parents ranged from 3% in Massachusetts to 12% in Arkansas. While the percentage of young parents decreased in all states between 2006–2010 and 2015–2019, the declines were especially pronounced in Alaska, Idaho, New Mexico and Wyoming.

This figure dropped in Puerto Rico, as well, from 13% to 8% during this timeframe.

Local, state and national leaders can build on this momentum by continuing to promote efforts to reduce unplanned pregnancy and bolstering support for young parents and their children, giving particular consideration to the perspectives of parents themselves, the needs of fathers in addition to mothers, the needs of parents involved in the foster care and justice systems and opportunities to advance racial equity.

Continue Learning About Young Parents

Explore all data about youth and young adults in the KIDS COUNT Data Center. Also, learn more about the challenges facing young parents and policy solutions to support them in the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s report, Opening Doors for Young Parents.