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CDC: Teen Birthrates at Historic Low

Guest blog post by Jaclyn Zubrzycki

More news on teen sexuality, to follow up on our recent post about sex and STD education programs: The teen birthrate in the U.S. is at an historic low.

The U.S. has one of the highest teen birthrates in the industrialized world; and yet that rate has declined dramatically since the early 1990s. Since 1991, the rate at which teens give birth has dropped by 44 percent; between 2009 and 2010 alone, it's dropped by 9 percent.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's National Center for Health Statistics has released a data brief highlighting trends in teenage birthrates. Using data from the 2010 Census and birth data, the researchers determined more-accurate birthrates for 2001-2010 (rates calculated before had used the 2000 Census as a baseline).

The U.S. teen birthrate is now 34.3 per 1,000 women aged 15-19. Fewer babies were born to teens this year than in any year since 1946. "If the teen birthrates observed in 1991 had not declined through 2010 as they did, there would have been an estimated 3.4 million additional births to teens during 1992-2010," the authors write. The report has some striking graphs that break down the rate into even smaller units (ie., 18-19 year olds, 15-17 year olds).

There's wide variation by state and by ethnic background. Asian or Pacific Islander students give birth at a rate of approximately 10.9 per 1,000 15-19-year-old women, while non-Hispanic white teenagers have a rate of 23.5, non-Hispanic black teenagers have a rate of 51.5, and Hispanic teenagers have a rate of 55.7. Even Hispanic teenagers saw a decline in the birth rate between 2009 and 2010.

Between 2007 and 2010, rates declined in the District of Columbia and in every state except Montana, North Dakota, and West Virginia. There are, however, large differences between states' birthrates, which we also wrote about in the context of research linking high birthrates to the religious and political climate in a state. The authors of this piece also highlight the connection between states' Hispanic populations and overall birthrates. Mississippi has the highest teen birthrate of any state (55.0 per 1,000). New Hampshire has the lowest (15.7 per 1,000).

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