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U.S. teen birth rate drops to a record low
April 10th, 2012
03:30 AM ET

U.S. teen birth rate drops to a record low

The teenage birth rate in the United States has fallen to a record low in the seven decades since such statistics were last collected.

A report released Tuesday by the National Center for Health Statistics showed the teenage birth rate for American teenagers fell 9% from 2009 to 2010. The national level, 34.3 teenage births per 1,000 women between the ages of 15-19, is the lowest since 1946.

The rates dropped across all racial and ethnic groups, and nearly all states. Experts suggested that the numbers may mean more teens are delaying sex or using contraception, representing gains for both abstinence-only and contraceptive education programs.

Teenage pregnancy is linked with several health and social issues such as poverty, out-of-wedlock births and education, as well as developmental issues, welfare and physical and mental health issues for the child.

“This nation has made truly extraordinary progress in reducing both rates of teen pregnancies and teen births,” said Bill Albert, the chief program officer for The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy. “It is not a stretch to say that this is one of the nation’s great success stories of the past decades.”

Babies born to teens between 15 to 19 numbered 367,752 in 2010, compared with 409,802 in 2009.

Birth rates peaked most recently in 1991. The teen birth rate that year was 61.8 live births for each 1,000 women. Had that rate persisted, there would have been about 3.4 million additional births to teenagers from 1992 to 2010.

The data from the report, which was derived from birth certificates, doesn't pinpoint why the teenage birth rate has decreased over the last few decades, said Brody Hamilton, an author of the report and a statistician at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“With teens, there are a lot of factors,” he said. “The economy is cited for overall downturn in the number of births. With teens, there are public policy programs directly addressing this teen pregnancy issue. It’s a mixture of things involved. We cannot tease that out with the data set that we have.”

A report released last year found that the rate of teenagers having sex decreased slightly, following an overall trend of decline in teenage sex in the last 20 years. Recent data has found increased use of contraception, such as condoms and hormonal birth control.

“These trends may have contributed to the recent birth rate declines,” wrote Hamilton and a co-author.

The short answer is that teens appear to be delaying sex or using contraception.

Despite the gains in teen pregnancy prevention, the U.S. still lags behind other industrialized countries. For example, Lithuania (17 per 1,000), Poland (16) and Canada (14) have lower teen pregnancy births than the United States, according to the UN Demographic Yearbook.

“It’s still the case that the U.S. is an outlier when it comes to teen pregnancy,” Albert said.

The teen birth rates also vary widely by race in the United States. Hispanics have the highest teenage birth rates at 55.7 births per 1,000, and black teenagers have the second highest with 51.5. Asians have the lowest teenage birth rate with 10.9.

Movies and TV shows about teen pregnancy, such as MTV’s “Teen Mom” and “16 and Pregnant” has spread awareness about the issue, Albert said. A national survey of teenagers asked whether the shows glamorized teen pregnancies and the majority reported that it had the opposite effect.

And over the years, controversy has ensued between those who advocate abstinence-only programs and supporters who want more contraception education.

“Over the past decade in particular, there has been a growing number of sex education programs that have been carefully evaluated and have shown it can change teen behavior, get them to delay sex or use contraceptives.” Albert said.

The lower teenage birth rate is a duel victory for both sides, he said, because sex education varies so much from one community to another.

“It’s a combination of less sex and more contraception. Both sides should declare victory,” Albert said. “I would resist the temptation for a magic bullet to explain the declines in teen pregnancies. I suspect it’s a rich brew of reasons why the rates are going down.”


soundoff (360 Responses)
  1. Suprised?

    The highest rate states? Red & southern. Abstinance only education, restrictions on birth control and abortion. That's working out great, I hope the GOP continues its war on women.

    April 12, 2012 at 12:15 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Gordon

      So LiveAction says killing off baby girls is becoming more common. Abortion is regularly being used in the USA to prevent the birth of baby girls. Can we say china... Nope the good ole USA. Get the facts straight Obamas war on women(dems).. Live Action says Planned Parenthood and other U.S. abortion providers are willing to assist in the termination of baby girls for pregnant women who choose abortion because they want to have baby boys.

      May 29, 2012 at 17:49 | Report abuse |
    • Gordon

      Also the article repudiates your statement.. The short answer is that teens appear to be delaying sex or using contraception. It says both/either/or..

      May 29, 2012 at 17:52 | Report abuse |
    • Naomizhiitah

      I think you should isntead look to support the teen center in lakeside park.Our community has invested alot of time and effort into that facility, and it should be leveraged.The Town isnt big enough for two Teen Centers why re-invent the wheel.if there are things you would like to see done differently, please tell me as I sit on the teen Advisory board for the town and will raise them the next time we meet

      September 13, 2012 at 22:30 | Report abuse |
  2. queenbee10

    One reason the birth rate has slowed (and later when they finally take note they will find out) is that due to STDs and other factors–many young girls are INFERTILE–not only are they not having babies now–they won't be having babies naturally om the future–they CAN'T.

    The infertility rate is climbing too–smart people should look at the problem in puberty not when women are 39 and we want to say (but cannot prove) the lack of kids is because women delayed pregnancy–maybe it is not delay–the American diet is so full of chemicals–maybe we are destroying our ability to procreate.

    April 12, 2012 at 12:23 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. queenbee10

    What are the rates of infertility among teens? Nobody looking onto that like they don't want to look into the hugh rate of infertility among white females?

    April 12, 2012 at 12:26 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. Ted

    I've knocked up a total of six "teens", ages 18 – 20. No complaints from any of them.

    April 12, 2012 at 14:09 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Dan

      apparently only you would be proud of "knocking 6 teens up" #no respect.

      April 13, 2012 at 23:06 | Report abuse |
  5. Sarah

    @ loriey – of course you can still party, and live a care-free life like you did before - just make sure you do it responsibly. For instance, when I first got pregnant, I was sad, cuz I couldn't sit around the campfire with my friends, drink booze, or jump off the cliffs and land into the water anymore. I thought my life was done for. I was so wrong! Forget about Baby sitters, my parents were more than willing to let me and my husband go out for a day or two and just enjoy our young lives - Sometimes, (especially if it involved camping), mother would join us along with our baby. She wouldn't drink, mind you, but she loved spending time with the family. So your wrong; you still can. You just have to do it responsibly (such as, don't leave the baby with your parents 24/7, and don't continuously go out and party every time. Maybe once every 2 months?).

    Btw, they thought I was infertile ... I was more fertile than the average woman! What an ironic twist, eh?

    April 12, 2012 at 14:10 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. Tony

    Go into any anchor corridor and count, there will be info opposite from this article.

    April 12, 2012 at 17:08 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Sylwek

      This is very true, although it\'s only ufseul up until about the 12th week. Unfortunately my pregnancy was confirmed almost too late to make any real use out of my prescription, but I\'ve been taking it anyway because it helps build your own immune system.

      October 14, 2012 at 01:21 | Report abuse |
  7. MrSnow

    Finally, after thousands of years, abstinence only education works very slightly for one year! Wait.... contraceptives? Those exists now? And people are being taught how to use them finally? That makes more sense.

    April 12, 2012 at 18:11 | Report abuse | Reply
    • john1513

      Because apparently teens need more sex. The 70s are over and society still has a hangover. Sex needs to be treated with respect despite what contraception and abortion activists say in the media.

      April 16, 2012 at 12:17 | Report abuse |
  8. Anne

    The article says this data was based off of birth certificates, and then tries to speculate why the birth rates have dropped so significantly. Last time I checked it's called abortion, which coincidentally has been on the rise, especially in minority communities (In NYC over 60% of African American women terminate their pregnancies, something both political parties have voiced alarm over). While I would love to think that American teens are being smarter and safer about sex, I highly doubt it. All this article did was skate around the obvious.

    April 13, 2012 at 06:02 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. Melanie Rijkers

    America, both low numbers for teen births as for abortions are possible, check http://www.mery.nl/TeenBirthsAbortions.PDF

    I've translated the piece about a delegation of British teenmoms who came to visit the Netherlands last week to learn about our ways of teaching the youngsters + added 2009 abortion numbers of the CBS.

    April 15, 2012 at 18:16 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Gonzalo

      Larry, thank you for your comment. The misoisn and vision of Progress for Pawling is in complete agreement with you concerning not re-inventing the wheel. P4P rejoices, celebrates, and supports the Town Teen Center and its programs. I, personally, have been very pleased with recent developments and programs at the Teen Center and I hope to become more informed so that P4P can more fully support the Teen Center and communicate its services and programs as one of the key spokes of Pawling's wheel of services.The Teen Center that has been discussed by P4P has, first of all, been on the coalition's wish list since its inception, but second, was aimed at youth who cannot or will not go to Lakeside Park and / or fall outside the scope of programs provided by the Town Teen Center. There are youth in our community who are actively engaged in risky behaviors as well as many others who are experimenting or who associate with those who are. P4P desires to see our community provide services to this group of youth as well as those who will participate in more traditional sorts of extra-curricular activities such as are well provided by the Town Recreation Department and Teen Center. P4P desires precisely NOT to re-invent the wheel or to duplicate services and programs already active in our community. This is where Communication, Coordination, and Cooperation are of key importance. P4P would like to see some sort of drop-in service, perhaps closer to the center of the Village, that would be a safe place to hang out and where youth counselors might be available to provide help, in the form of talking, to youth who desire it.The short of it, Larry, is that P4P does support the Town Teen Center and does not seek to duplicate its programs or services. Perhaps in August or September 2011 the P4P Steering Committee could meet with you and the Teen Advisory Board and discuss the youth community of Pawling in total and see just what it is that our community offers and what it does not that perhaps it could.Thank you for your comment. And, thank you for your selfless service to the youth of Pawling and to our community as a whole.+ Jon M. Ellingworth

      September 12, 2012 at 04:51 | Report abuse |
  10. wuzzup

    I'm glad that teen birth rates are lower. Only the dumbest people on earth have unplanned pregnancies. With parents like that, what chance does a baby have to protect he/she from idiot parents?...Ones that take drugs, ones that know nothing of health and nutrition, ones that have no job, no prospects and no future?

    Teen pregnancy is one group that deserves the most insulting and caustic profiling. "If the shoe fits, wear it".

    When it comes to 15 year old parents, the shoes fit on their heads...

    April 17, 2012 at 15:37 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Maja

      I get what you're saying, i was born in 1994, but i LOVE all the shows from the 80 s and 90 s. like boy meets world, rnenaose, growing pains, and saved by the bell. Does anyone here remember the cartoon DOUG from nickelodeon, it was my super-favorite show when i was in like first grade.I think our generations main issue is boredom, we have WAY too much time on or hands. lol.

      September 13, 2012 at 23:48 | Report abuse |
  11. Janice Major

    I'm thrilled to see the teenage pregnancy rate go down ... I think this can be attributed to the wealth of sex education information available online. Back when I was growing up, there was no where to go when I had questions about sex or pregnancy. Now there are thousands of sites! People often blame the web for promoting sex, sites like Sexpartyusa(dot)com are an example of how sex can be spread so easily through social networking. But there are more responsible sites that have actually helped educate our young people of America.

    May 9, 2012 at 18:05 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. Sam

    I guess that's the difference now and days You know what I mean when a teen says I have bad news and says I'm prnnaegt, you know it was a mistake, but if it was like an adult or something, they would say great news, I'm prnnaegt! I don't know, I think it shows that these teens are not ready..

    October 11, 2012 at 12:48 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. victoria

    I really disagree with most of your posts! i am a 16yo teenager in the 10th grade. i belive that many of the reasons girls are not having sex as much as they where in our past generations is 1.) because we are getting more and more scared of diseases, and health hazards.
    2.) we are acturally being taught to have more and more confidence in our selfs, and we acturally know were our morals and values stand! 3.) pregnacy, do you think we all want to be parents right now? really. ha my parents told me it only takes one time.. one time to make maybe the stupidist decicion in the world. she also told me if i was adult enough to lay down and do it, then i was bold enough to raise a child! my point is that maybe, just maybe parnets are acturally starting to raise there children right.. has anyone thought of that? hm? thanks

    March 29, 2013 at 09:21 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. victoria

    and some teeen parents turn out to be the best parents you never know!!

    March 29, 2013 at 09:23 | Report abuse | Reply
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