National teen birth rates drop to all-time low

May 2, 2016 Providence Health Team

Teen birth rates in the U.S. have declined by more than 40 percent over the past decade, according to an analysis by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The agency highlighted that birth rates dropped by 51 percent for Hispanic teens and by 44 percent for black teens.

While the numbers appear to be encouraging news, the CDC said more needs to be done to prevent teen pregnancy.

“The United States has made remarkable progress in reducing both teen pregnancy and racial and ethnic differences, but the reality is, too many American teens are still having babies,” said CDC Director Tom Frieden. “By better understanding the many factors that contribute to teen pregnancy we can better design, implement, evaluate, and improve prevention interventions and further reduce disparities.”

A closer look at the numbers

The CDC analyzed local, state and national data from the National Vital Statistics System to determine the birth trends of American teens ages 15 to 19 between 2006 and 2014.

Overall, teen birth rates declined 41 percent, from 41.1 to 24.2 per births per 1,000 females.

The agency’s key findings:

  • Racial and ethnic differences: In some states, birth rates among Hispanic and black teens were more than three times as high as those of whites.
  • Socio-economic and education gaps: Higher unemployment and lower income and education are more common in communities with the highest teen birth rates, regardless of race.
  • Key in-state differences: In some states with low overall birth rates, there were pockets of high birth rates in some counties.
  • Regional teen birth patterns: Counties with higher teen birth rates were clustered in southern and southwestern states.

“These data underscore that the solution to our nation’s teen pregnancy problem is not going to be a one-size-fits-all – teen birth rates vary greatly across state lines and even within states,” said Lisa Romero, a health scientist in the CDC’s Division of Reproductive Health and the lead author of the analysis. “We can ensure the success of teen pregnancy prevention efforts by capitalizing on the expertise of our state and local public health colleagues. Together, we can work to implement proven prevention programs that take into account unique, local needs.”

Pregnancy by the numbers

Teen pregnancy and teen births have consequences for teen parents, their children and society in general:

  • In 2010, teen pregnancy and childbirth accounted for at least $9.4 billion in costs to U.S. taxpayers for:
    • Increased health care and foster care
    • Increased incarceration rates among children of teen parents
    • Lost tax revenue because of lower education and income among teen mothers
  • Pregnancy and birth are significant contributors to high school dropout rates among girls. Only about 50 percent of teen mothers receive a high school diploma by 22. In comparison, approximately 90 percent of women who do not give birth during adolescence graduate from high school.
  • The children of teenage mothers are more likely to:
    • Achieve less in school
    • Drop out of school
    • Have more health problems
    • Be incarcerated at some time during adolescence
    • Give birth as a teenager
    • Face unemployment as a young adult

Research shows that teens who talk with their parents about sexuality are less likely to get pregnant at a young age.

May is Teen Pregnancy Prevention Month. For more tips on how to talk productively with your teen about sex and pregnancy, talk with your child's pediatrician or with your own health care provider. You can find a Providence provider here.

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