Teen birth rates decline

By Susan Brinkmann, OCDS
Staff Journalist

A new study published by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) is reporting a 2.4 percent drop in the number of teen births, but with broad state-by-state variations.

The U.S. birth rate among teens age 10 to 19 “declined substantially during the 1990s and early 2000s, from a high of 61.8 births per 1,000 females in 1991 to a historical low of 40.5 in 2005,” wrote Phyllis A. Wingo, PhD, of the CDC’s division of reproductive health, and colleagues.

But the numbers show wide variations by state. For instance, New Hampshire has the lowest rate at 19.8 per 1,000 while Mississippi has the highest at 65.7 per 1,000.

While the South tended to have the most teen births, these rates varied by race and ethnicity. Fro example, rates for non-Hispanic white and Hispanic teens were higher in the Southeast and lower in the Northeast and in California, while rates for non-Hispanic black teens were highest in the upper Midwest and Southeast.

Overall, the only group for which the birth rate substantially increased was among older Hispanic teens (age 18-19) which rose from 134.2 in 2004 to 140.8 in 2006.

The study’s authors attribute the general decrease in U.S. teen births since the 1990s to several factors — including delaying first sexual intercourse and improved contraception use.

“Maternal ages shifted to slightly older ages, maternal education levels increased, and the percentage of teens whose current birth was at least their second birth decreased — all changes that could be viewed as favorable to teen health,” they said.

Even with these improved numbers, the U.S. still has the highest teen birth among developed nations. At an average of 41.9 per 1,000, it beats the next highest rates which are found in New Zealand (28.1) and the UK (26.7). 

The lowest rates, which are less than 7 per 1,000, can be found in Korea, Japan, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Sweden and Italy.

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