Tulare is an agricultural county in California with the second highest teen pregnancy rate in the nation. Eighteen percent of white teens live below the poverty line and their birth rate is 50 per 1,000, at least 10 times that of the lowest birth rate in the country where teens live above the poverty line.
The population that suffers most in terms of poverty and teen pregnancy in Tulare County, though, are the Latino girls. School officials confirm that over 80 percent of students are Hispanic and these adolescents account for nearly 70 percent of teenage births in the 15- to 18-year old group. Many of these teenage girls are children of migrant farm-workers and many of them live well below the poverty line. Forty percent of Tulare’s Latino girls are poor, and the rate of teen pregnancy in Tulare County among this population is over 100 per 1,000 women, this number is similar to rates seen in underdeveloped nations.
Indeed, one does not have to go to underdeveloped nations to find the close association between teen pregnancy and extreme poverty, which many experts say is essentially at the root of concerns regarding teen pregnancy. Rural communities in California have long suffered poverty and socio-economic isolation. One of the results of this situation is the extreme rarity of teen reproductive health care and medical services, also very rare are school-based teen clinics and comprehensive sex education services, initiatives which have proven to be effective in combating the problems of teenage pregnancy in other locations. One of the results of this scarcity of government aid seems to be the high rate of teen pregnancy in Tulare County. Barriers due to culture and language also cause problems when trying to relate to and communicate with Latino migrant and seasonal farm-worker families, as well as populations of other ethnic groups.
According to the Census Bureau, alongside the high rate of teen pregnancy in Tulare County, this area has the fifth highest percentage of poverty and the third-highest percentage of people with less than a high school diploma in the country. Within California, Tulare County has the highest percentage of poverty, unemployment, and lack of education. A frightening statistic is that close to two-thirds of the population under 18 in this county live below 200 percent of poverty, and this is the highest rate in the state, surprisingly enough, Tulare is the leading agricultural producer in the country, yet poverty and its effects, such as teen pregnancy, in Tulare County run rampant.
There is a frightening lack of access to proper health care services, due to the absence of health insurance, low socio-economic status, and limited resources in many of the migrant farm-worker families. The population of this county has in fact been designated as a Medically Underserved Population and many areas in the county have been designated as primary care Health Professional Shortage Areas. Measures are being taken to bring basic health care services, including those dealing with women’s health, to this population.