Published on July 10, 2004 at 1:46 AM
Bill Cosby wants to set the record straight concerning the statistics of African American teen pregnancy that he has cited in his call-to-action for better parenting and education.
While still maintaining that the teen pregnancy is at epidemic levels, Mr. Cosby is issuing a correction regarding his previous public remarks that 70% of all teen pregnancies are to African American girls. According to 1997 data, African Americans comprise about 27% of young teenage mothers. But factoring in the fact that African Americans make up a smaller percentage of the U.S. population, the rate of black teenage pregnancy is very high.
Looking more closely at African-American teens aged 15-19, the rate is almost double that of the white population. However, the data also points out that African Americans had the largest decline since 1991 of birth rates for this same group, falling 42% compared to the previous data. Still, this high rate of teenage pregnancy is unacceptable. Fewer pregnant teenagers today marry than did decades ago, leading to a high rate of poor, single-parent African American households.
While some commentators are pointing to the successful decline in African American teen pregnancy as an indication that things are going in a more positive direction, Mr. Cosby disagrees: "If 55% of the people in your community had smallpox, you would call it an epidemic. Yet in the African-American community, we have staggering percentages of dropouts, teen pregnancies, and incarceration of young males, and we fail to acknowledge the epidemic. This epidemic can only be cured by a focus on parenting and education."