Becoming pregnant or having a child should not be the end of anyone’s education. In fact, becoming a parent can be a powerful motivator that encourages young women to focus on their and their children’s futures. Studies have found that student mothers who had previously disengaged from school can find new reasons to return after the birth of a child. Yet, despite the increased motivation of many young parents to succeed in school and the protection against discrimination provided by Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 (“Title IX”), many girls who are pregnant or parenting continue to be pushed out of school. These girls often face discrimination, harassment, inflexible school policies, and other barriers, such as lack of child care and transportation, that make it harder for them to remain and succeed in school. According to a survey conducted by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, a third of young women who did not finish high school stated that becoming a parent played a major role in their decision to leave. Only about half of young mothers will earn a high school diploma by the age of 22, compared with 89 percent of women who did not have a child during their teenage years, and one-third of young mothers will never get a G.E.D. or a diploma.
This report utilizes new research and existing data to identify the educational barriers that girls who are pregnant or parenting face and provides recommendations for how policymakers, schools, and communities can support these girls and harness their motivation to improve their educational outcomes.