Teen Birth Rate Hits Lowest Point Since 1946

The positive news just keeps coming. In February we reported on the latest teen pregnancy rates which were the lowest in nearly 40 years and showed a 42 percent decrease from their peak in 1990. Today, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released the latest teen birth rates which found that fewer babies were born to teen mothers in 2010 than in any year since 1946. In 2010 there were 367,752 babies born to teens compared to 409,802 in 2009.

The 2010 birth rates was 34.3 births per 1,000 young women ages 15 to 19 which represents a nine percent drop from just the year before and a 44 percent drop since 1991 when birth rates were at their highest (61.8 per 1,000 young women). The CDC’s report calculated that if that high rate had continued, there would have been about 3.4 million additional births to teenagers between 1992 and 2010.

The teen birth rate dropped across all racial and ethnic groups but still varies widely by race; Hispanics have the highest teenage birth rates at 55.7 births per 1,000 teens in the age group, followed by black teens at 51.5 per 1,000. Asian teens have the lowest teenage birth rate with 10.9 per 1,000.

In addition, teen birth rates fell since 2007 in all states except Montana, North Dakota, and West Virginia.  Still, birth rates vary widely among different groups of states; Mississippi has the highest teen birth rate at 55 per 1,000 girls 15 to 19 years of age, New Mexico’s rate is 53, and Arkansas is 52.5.  New Hampshire has the lowest birth rate at about 16 per 1,000 women with Massachusetts and Vermont following right behind.

Though this study does not explain why the teen birth rate has dropped so significantly, previous research suggests that a combination of less teen sexual activity, more contraceptive use, and use of more effective contraceptive methods is responsible for this positive trend.

Of course, the United States still has a long way to go if we want to catch up with other industrialized nations which have far lower teen birth rates. Lithuania, for example, has a rate of 16 births per 1,000 young women 15 to 19 and Canada has only 14 births per 1,000. 

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