Insightful, scholarly, and wonderfully readable analysis of Americans' misconceptions about teenage pregnancy and the impact of these beliefs on public policy. The unwed teenage mother, especially the black unwed teenage mother, has become the symbol of social, sexual, and economic trends that are causing increasing anxiety for Americans. Sociologist Luker (Abortion and the Politics of Motherhood, 1984) asserts that current welfare reforms aimed at reducing teenage pregnancy rates are doomed to fail because they are based on a basic misunderstanding of the problem. In her words, ``Early childbearing doesn't make young women poor; rather, poverty makes women bear children at an early age.'' Luker traces ideas about early childbearing from colonial times to the present and demonstrates how the notion that the country is witnessing an explosion in teenage pregnancy came to have broad acceptance among both policy makers and the general public. Of special interest is her argument that poor women and affluent women are choosing two different solutions to their common problem of raising children in a society that offers little support: Poor women adopt the traditional American pattern of early childbearing, having babies before they enter the work force and relying on family help, whereas affluent women postpone childbearing until they are well established in their careers. Given the circumstances, she says, it makes sense for poor women to have their babies at an early age. The real problem is the underlying social and economic forces that compel women to make such choices. ``Society should worry not about some epidemic of `teenage pregnancy' but about the hopeless, discouraged, and empty lives that early childbearing denotes,'' she concludes. She offers no ready solutions, but her fresh perspective on the issue of teenage pregnancy is an important contribution to the current debate over welfare reform. Commonsensical, timely, and very persuasive.