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16 and Not Pregnant

U.S. teen birth rates plummet to record lows
  • April 16 2012

If you simply based your opinions on reality TV, then you’d think being 16 and pregnant was an increasing trend. In fact, the opposite is true, as teen birth rates have hit historic lows.

The U.S. teen birth rate declined 9 percent from 2009 to 2010, reaching 34.3 births per 1,000 women aged 15 to 19, according to figured released by the U.S. Center for Disease Control (CDC). The rate actually dropped 44 percent from 1991 through 2010. In fact, teen birth rates by age and race and Hispanic origin were lower in 2010 than ever reported in the U.S. Fewer babies were born to teenagers in 2010 than in any year since 1946.

How critical is this shift? According to the CDC, if teen birth rates had stayed at 1991 levels through 2010, there would have been an estimated 3.4 million additional births to teens during that time. Or just somewhat less than the population of Los Angeles.

According to the CDC, the birth rate for teens aged 15 to17 dropped 12 percent, from 19.6 per 1,000 in 2009 to 17.3 in 2010. The 2010 rate was less than one-half the level in 1991 (38.6). The rate for 18- and 19-year-olds dropped 9 percent, from 64.0 in 2009 to 58.3 in 2010.

The number of babies born to women aged 15 to 19 was 367,752 in 2010, a 10 percent decline from 2009 (409,802), and the fewest reported in more than 60 years (322,380 in 1946). In fact, the 2010 total of births to teenagers was 43 percent lower than the peak recorded in 1970 (644,708).

The drop in teen birth rates crosses racial and ethnic lines. Rates declined by 9 percent for non-Hispanic White and non-Hispanic Black teenagers, by 12 percent for Hispanic teenagers and by 13 percent for Asian teenagers from 2009 to 2010. Hispanic teenagers had the highest birth rate (55.7 per 1,000), followed by non-Hispanic Black (51.5), non-Hispanic White (23.5), and Asian (10.9).

Still, there were significant geographic differences in teen birth rates. Overall, rates tended to be highest in the South and Southwest and lowest in the Northeast and Upper Midwest, a pattern that has persisted for many years, notes the CDD. In 2010, Mississippi had the highest teen birth rate (55 per 1,000), and New Hampshire had the lowest (15.7 per 1,000).


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