Thirty-four percent of girls nationwide get pregnant at least once before age 20, according to a study for the National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy. In Georgia, 86 out of every 1,000 African-American girls age 15-19 and 58 of 1,000 white teens become pregnant. According to new research from the School of Public and International Affairs, increasing the number of minority teachers can improve these health outcomes.
“African-American teachers drive down African-American teenage pregnancy rates,” said Vicky Wilkins, who co-authored a paper on the subject appearing in the October issue of the Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory.
Looking at Georgia public school data from 143 districts from 2002-2006, Wilkins and former graduate student Danielle Atkins compared teacher representation in high schools and teen pregnancy rates reported by district to the Georgia Department of Community Health. They found increasing the number of minority teachers decreases teen pregnancy among those populations.
“You do not see a decrease in teen pregnancy for African-American teenagers until you reach a critical mass of African-American teacher representation,” said Wilkins, who is an associate professor of public administration and policy in SPIA. “We identified 17.6 percent as the tipping point where the percentage of African-American teachers started to significantly lower the African-American teen pregnancy rate.”
Study findings show a 10 percent increase in African-American teachers would result in six fewer African-American teen pregnancies per district. Districts with 20 to 29 percent African-American teachers resulted in a significant decrease in teen pregnancy, 18.8 fewer pregnancies per 1,000.
An increase in African-American teachers has no effect on teenage pregnancy rates among white students. Similarly, representation of white teachers has no effect on teenage pregnancy among white students. The results also reveal increased African-American student population, unemployment and higher white teen pregnancy rates all are associated with higher African-American pregnancy rates.
To further understand the influence of minority teacher representation, Wilkins and Atkins interviewed a convenience sample of 11 high school teachers and one school district administrator.
Interview results reveal race-match was important for role modeling with regard to noneducational outcomes.