October 20th, 2010
11:46 AM ET

Births to teens vary by region, highest in South

Teenage birth rates in the United States differ by geographic area, but rates are highest in the South a new report from the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) found. The report, based on data from 2008, found rates were lowest in the Northeast and Midwest.

Rates have fallen steadily over the last 20 years, but disparities exist state to state. Between 2007 and 2008, the teen birth rate fell nationally to about 4.2 percent of all births.  The rate slipped in 14 states, but rates are still significantly higher here in the United States than in other Western countries, according to the statistics. Population plays a role in these numbers.

Historically, rates have been higher among Hispanic and African American teens. So, states with large Hispanic and black populations tend to have higher overall teenage birth rates. In 2007, the birth rate for Hispanic teenagers between the ages of 15 and 19 years old was almost three times that of white teens. African American rates were more than double that of white teens.

"The importance of this report is to get the data out there that shows where the high teen rates are by region and for whom, so that people have a foundation for addressing the issue of teen births," said study author Brady Hamilton, a statistician with NCHS. "You can't think of this as a uniform issue. There are variations by group, there are variations by region, and any public policy attempting to address the issue of teen births has to take these variations into account when it comes to discussing this issue."

Breaking it down by region, birth rates for Hispanic teens were highest in the Southeast, and significantly lower in California, New Jersey, Florida and New York. Still, rates exceeded the national Hispanic teen birth rate in 35 states and Washington, D.C.

Rates for African American teens were highest in the Southeastern states along the Mississippi River and the upper Midwest in states like Minnesota, Nebraska and Wisconsin. They were lowest in southern New England and along the Pacific coast.

For white teenagers birth rates were highest in the Southeast and lowest in the Northeast, upper Midwest and in California.

Planned Parenthood Federation of America says the key to declining teenage birth rates is sex education. "This new CDC report makes it is crystal clear that a smaller percentage of teens are getting pregnant in states like California, New York and New Jersey that provide students with comprehensive, evidence-based sex education," said Leslie Kantor, National Director of Education, Planned Parenthood Federation of America. "The report demonstrates that the surest way to reduce teenage pregnancy is to provide young people with comprehensive, medically accurate sex education, and doing so is especially urgent for African-Americans and Latino teens, who are getting pregnant more frequently than other young people."

Overall, there are about 4 million births each year in the U.S.  According to the NCHS numbers, based on birth certificates, there were nearly 450,000 births by women ages 15 to 19 from 2007 to 2008. The data from 2008 are still preliminary. But study authors say existing data show that pregnant teens are at greater risk of complications including preterm births, low birth weights and infant death than women having babies in their 20s or older.

soundoff (24 Responses)
  1. Big Jerk

    So I guess all that southern fried abstinence only education is panning out as expected... Maybe the low numbers in New England are on account of all the gay marriages keeping the heterosexuals oppressed. X-D

    October 20, 2010 at 13:48 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Sara

      I was born and raised in Southern Louisiana. The abstinence only programs are poison. It only spreads disease and unplanned pregnancies. I'm only a few years out of highschool and I'm the minoroty. I don't have a baby. Most of my graduating class have kids. Having a baby in highschool or while still being very young yourself isn't really a noteworthy occurance. In fact, most parents I know would rather their kids be teenage parents than gay or lesbian...

      October 20, 2010 at 18:59 | Report abuse |
    • Constantine

      HAHAh – well it brought a smile to my mouth

      October 21, 2010 at 00:12 | Report abuse |
  2. akbh

    Pretty much yes, preaching abstinence only doesn't work, and you have lots more anti-choice legislation in many of these states...

    October 20, 2010 at 16:09 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Constantine

      I like what big jerk said – maybe the south needs more gays!

      October 21, 2010 at 00:15 | Report abuse |
  3. Dr T

    It's not just sex education,it's education,period. When teens drop out of school,you can expect birth rates to go up. Of course,certain groups will try to blame the teachers,but perhaps if the parents really truly got involved in their children's lives,then maybe a trend could be reversed

    October 20, 2010 at 16:28 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. KR

    Aside from education, there are various problems that teens in the Southeast are facing for example they come from homes of low socioeconomic status. This may mean that both parents work outside the home or that they live in single parent households. That is why I agree with Dr. T in that schools must provide education to the students. It is more cost effective, logical, to provide education and not have to provide monetary support for the teen mom to carry the baby full term. This isn't to say that babies are bad however, deferring girls from having pregnancies earlier will result in less neglect children later. Comprehensive education is the key here!

    October 20, 2010 at 17:30 | Report abuse | Reply
    • steve

      how much education is needed ? I am not against it at all, but I ask what is there to know ? I was in hs in the eighties, and most of the girls knew what happens if they drop their pants with a guy. THE problem is that is has become an ok thing to do, with parents welcoming the new little one with no problems. Girls need to go to college, not get knocked up. a little guilt about blowing most of their chances of getting ahead -sure some succeed, but not many.

      October 20, 2010 at 20:54 | Report abuse |
    • SDD

      The problem today is that "the schools" are expected to practically raise kids now from 3 years old and up!!! And then to teach them birth control too?? Where does the RESPONSIBILITY of the parent lie today? The school system that I work in send social workers out to the homes of students to find out why the parents are not doing what THEY need to do for their children. Yes there are some very good reasons that are found but, most of the time, parents just DO NOT parent any longer! These teens lie down to have these kids but do not have to take FULL responsibility for their actions. It is very much accepted and almost glorified when a teen has a baby today! Society has made it too easy for them by providing "in-school" childcare, WIC, etc. Yes, this does help them to graduate, however, many do not go on to the workforce or higher education. If the parent(s) of the teens had to pay for these babies, they would be parenting with a vengeance! Watch your teen with BOTH eyes!! P.S. I was a product of a single parent household and my mother PARENTED and watched with BOTH eyes and I raised and parented two of my own!!

      October 20, 2010 at 23:14 | Report abuse |
  5. Rich

    Is anyone surprised that the highest rates are in abstinence only territory, better known as the Bible belt. They are a delusional bunch down here. And they are the biggest complainers about child welfare payments. They are absolutely brainless.

    October 20, 2010 at 20:04 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. Odalice Feliz


    October 20, 2010 at 21:55 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Lauren

      It isn't better OR safer just because you wait. If you're uninformed, unemployed, or uneducated, it's just as bad as if you got pregnant at 16.

      October 21, 2010 at 03:22 | Report abuse |
    • Minnesotan

      Let me guess, you are from one of the states in the south topping the list. Hand out condoms, kids are going to do it whether you preach to them or not. Probably more if you preach to them.

      October 21, 2010 at 18:10 | Report abuse |
  7. Constantine

    Is anyone really surprise – im not really shocked

    October 21, 2010 at 00:15 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. Lauren

    Seems fitting to me. I'm originally from Detroit, and I thought teen pregnancies were bad there, when four girls in my freshman math class got pregnant. I moved here to Fort Worth, Texas at the end of my sophomore year and was appalled. We have teachers commenting and offering baby advice to fifteen year old pregnant students, but who are afraid to speak the word 'condom'

    October 21, 2010 at 03:22 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. Theresa

    All of new the map would look like this. Good "Christian" regions where abstinance is pushed, planned parenting is not discussed. Creating generations of poorer people – life is not going to get easier practicing behaviours out of early 1900's; you don't have a farm you don't need help to work the farm. You need post-hs training – tech, associates, military, something. Hard to do when you have to work to pay for diapers, milk, daycare. I think all the parent should be forced to pay for the "gifts from God" – let them pay for the medical, let them live with them, drive up their property taxes to pay for school. This makes no sense want the kids to be modern – cell phones, computers, internet. But want them to "figure out all the sex stuff on their own". Or pray they just wait for marriage. How many of these kids are even getting married before 21, 25. Or is it happening after the second or third baby daddy/ momma, so the kids are actually bridesmaids or groomsmen.

    October 21, 2010 at 06:15 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. TM

    I don't think it has to do with the education of the girls, as much as it has to do with religious beliefs.

    October 21, 2010 at 08:23 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Rock

      Hey TM, Don't blame just the girls. Boys need the education just as much, as they are half of the decision. Remember that it takes two to get pregnant.

      October 21, 2010 at 18:20 | Report abuse |
  11. MHow

    It's partly because of the abortion rates across the U.S. Yes, the South has more births from teenage mothers, but states like New York and California are just killing them off through abortion. I guess that's one way to improve your teenage birth statistics....now THAT's disgusting.

    October 21, 2010 at 13:21 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. Jess

    To be fair, they really should put a map of abortion levels for that age group as well.

    October 21, 2010 at 14:23 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. Austin B

    the article never states how many were married, how many were not....but afe to say, most were not...but rates of teen marriage do vary greatly state to state.....

    October 21, 2010 at 19:37 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. m

    I agree with the idea that you should correlate this with the abortion rates in the states (MHow). I also think it would be interesting to see how the immigrant population plays into this. Access and trust of health care could be an issue. While there are some states that are big players in the immigration debate that apparently have low birth rates, that statistic might generally be explained by the abortion policies and the access the teen population has to them.

    October 21, 2010 at 20:16 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. h

    Not shockingly, abortion rates are also lowest in those states with the highest teen birth rate: http://www.guttmacher.org/pubs/USTPtrends.pdf However, the PREGNANCY rate also seems to pretty well correlate with this map, but the numbers aren't as shocking, so it doesn't make as good a news story!

    October 22, 2010 at 01:32 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. WTF!

    This is sad I am from New Mexico and I see pregnant girls all the time that i went to school with. It's quite funny in a way they mess around with these guys and then get pregnant and the guy leaves and they act all Oh my god! He left me no $h!t I guess i just dont see how they can be so blind. Like on "teen mom" the guy usually says "if we werent having a baby i would'nt be here" OKAAY you gonna leave once it comes anyway save your breath and dont talk. Its funny the guy have twice as many kids as the girls cuz they just up and leave to the next one.

    October 22, 2010 at 11:07 | Report abuse | Reply

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