The latest headline:  teen births in the US are on the rise!

I’m going to spare you a diatribe on abstinence-only education—except to note that these figures confirm the abundant research showing that abstinence-only ed programs are almost comically ineffective.

No, the important thing to note here is this:  here we are in 2010, and the latest teen birth data we’ve got is for 2006.  That’s right, we had to wait for 3 full years, and then some, just to get some reliable numbers on a deeply important social indicator.

This, to me, is clear evidence that we’re simply not serious about teen birth rates.  Sure, we do a lot of hand wringing about “babies having babies.”  Yet we haven’t bothered to set up a system to monitor whether our efforts to delay teen childbearing are working.  Look, teen births just aren’t that hard to track. But at the national level at least, we simply haven’t bothered to track them.

And as a result, we’ve got a 3-year delay on a lagging indicator of a failed social policy—and a lot of policymakers who are flying blind.