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Teen Birthrate in Rural Communities Outpaces Urban, National Average

A "first of its kind" analysis shows that teens in rural counties face the greatest risk of pregnancy, according to new research from The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy.

And although the birthrate among teens in rural areas has fallen by 32 percent between 1990 and 2010, that's far slower than in major urban areas (49 percent decrease) or suburban areas (40 percent decrease).

"Therefore, the need for teen-pregnancy prevention efforts is particularly great among rural teens, and prevention efforts focused on underserved populations should consider rural teens as a particularly high-risk group," according to the report.

Why should educators care about teen pregnancy? It's one of the top reasons cited among teen girls for dropping out of school, according to the national campaign. Only half of teen moms have a high school diploma, and children of teen mothers are 50 percent more likely to repeat a grade, are less likely to complete high school than the children of older mothers, and have lower performance on standardized tests.

The report from the nonprofit advocacy group was released last week and looked at teen childbearing in rural, suburban, and urban areas and how those rates had changed over time. Rural areas are those with less than 50,000 residents.

The report notes that a number of factors, such as economic well-being and opportunity, may account for the differences in teen birth rates in rural areas. One health expert quoted in a USA Today story about the report said the availability of birth control is a problem in rural areas, while another said teen pregnancy and parenting are cultural norms.

This report was the first in a series of analyses that will look at issues such as variation in educational outcomes, income disparities, labor market opportunities, health care availability, and the implications for teen-pregnancy prevention efforts among youth in rural areas.

Some of the other findings were:

  • the teen birth rate in rural counties was higher than the national average regardless of students' age or race (43 per 1,000 girls ages 15 to 19 in rural areas compared to the 33 per 1,000 for the national average); and

  • rural counties account for 1 in 5 teen births, but rural teens make up only 16 percent of the overall teen population.

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