School & District Management

Teen Birth Rates Hit All-Time Low, But Disparities Persist

By Evie Blad — April 28, 2016 2 min read
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Births to American teenagers have dropped 40 percent in the last decade, hitting an all-time low in 2014, according to the most recent federal data released today.

But the U.S. teen pregnancy rate is still “substantially higher” than in other western, industrialized nations, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.

“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,” CDC Director Tom Frieden said in a statement. “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.”

In 2014, a total of 249,078 babies were born to girls ages 15-19, a birth rate of 24.2 per 1,000 teen girls, the CDC reported. This is another historic low for U.S. teens and a drop of 9 percent from 2013.

Declining pregnancy rates for Hispanic and black teens, which dropped 51 percent and 44 percent, respectively, helped contribute to the overall drop, the CDC found. But disparate rates persist. Nationally, birth rates remain twice as high for teens in those groups as they are for white teens, the agency said, adding that “in some states, birth rates among Hispanic and black teens were more than three times as high as those of whites.”

“Higher unemployment and lower income and education are more common in communities with the highest teen birth rates, regardless of race,” the CDC said. And teen birth rates tend to be higher in the south and southwestern regions of the country.

Teen pregnancy can be a barrier to educational opportunity for girls, particularly those in low-income and other at-risk groups that may lack access to birth control, family support, and medical treatment. About half of teen mothers fail to earn a diploma before turning 22, research shows.

Public health advocates credit a variety of factors for the dropping teen pregnancy rate, including expanded access to contraceptive information outside of schools, more teens choosing to delay sexual activity, improved sex education programs in some areas, and access to long-term contraceptive devices like IUDs.

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Rules for Engagement blog.