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Teen birth rates still declining


Birth rates for adolescents in the United States continue their dramatic drop, although they are still far higher than in most developed countries, according to a National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) report.

Birth rates for adolescents in the United States continue their dramatic drop, although they are still far higher than in most developed countries, according to a report issued by the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS).

Last year, adolescent girls aged 15 to 19 years had a birth rate of 26.6 births per 1000, according to preliminary data-less than half the 1991 rate of 61.8 and less than one-third the 1957 rate of 96.3.

The decline has been almost continuous for 5 decades except for small upturns and a 23% increase from 1986 to 1991. The 2013 total number of adolescent births, at 274,641, was below 300,000 for only the second time since 1940. Births numbered 280,997 in 1945 and peaked at 644,708 in 1970.

However, the United States, which long had the highest teenaged birth rate of all developed countries, still has one of the highest. Switzerland had a recent rate of 3.4 and the Netherlands had a rate of 4.8. Of 31 selected countries including Japan, Canada, Israel, and many European nations, only 7 had rates above 20 in reports from 2009-2012.

The vast majority of adolescent births in the United States are to mothers aged 18 or 19 years. In 2013, that group had 199,407 births; girls aged 15 to 17 years had 75,234; and those aged 10 to 14 years had 3108.

Although almost all states have seen impressive reductions in the last 20 years, states still vary greatly both in their adolescent birth rates and in the rates of decline. In 2012, Vermont had an adolescent birth rate of 16.3 per 1000 for teenagers aged 15 to 19 years and New Hampshire’s rate was 13.8. On the other end of the scale, New Mexico’s rate was 47.5 and Oklahoma’s was 47.3.

The states with rates of 36 or higher per 1000 were Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, District of Columbia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, New Mexico, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and West Virginia.

The lowest teenaged birth rates, 13.8 to 22.9, were in Connecticut, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, and Wisconsin.



The NCHS says the drop in the adolescent birth rate during 2007-2012 ranged from 18% in Montana to 39% in Colorado.

Colorado has received media attention on its rapid reduction, which state officials attribute to the Colorado Family Planning Initiative they say has provided 30,000 intrauterine devices or implants free or inexpensively to low income women at 68 family planning clinics since 2009.

According to a report in the September Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health, beginning in 2009, 28 Title-X funded agencies in Colorado got private funding for the initiative and by 2011 long-acting reversible contraceptive (LARC) use “among 15–24-year-olds had grown from 5% to 19%. Cumulatively, 1 in 15 young, low-income women had received a LARC method, up from 1 in 170 in 2008.”

The researchers say observed fertility rates were 29% lower in 2011 in low-income 15- to 19-year-olds than expected in counties where the initiative was under way and that abortion rates fell 34% for the age group. However, 21 other states also reduced birth rates for 15- to 19-year-olds by at least 30% during 2007-2012, according to the NCHS report.

The NCHS notes that data on teenaged pregnancy, including abortion and fetal loss, are not as current as those on birth. However, from 1991-2009 the abortion rate among teenagers fell 56% to 16.3 per 1000.

It also said an analysis of 2 cycles of the National Survey of Family Growth, also done by the NCHS, “concluded that improved contraceptive use may have been the key factor behind the declines in [teenaged] birth rates.”

The National Survey of Family Growth, which is done by interviewing subjects, also found that from the time the survey was done in 1988 to the survey cycle of 2006-2010 there had been a gradual reduction in the percentage of both male and female teenagers who had had sex.

Over those 2 decades, approximately, the rate for girls who had had intercourse dropped from 51% to 43%. For boys, it dropped 60% to 42% percent.

Ms Foxhall is a freelance writer in the Washington, DC, area. She has nothing to disclose in regard to affiliations with or financial interests in any organizations that might have an interest in any part of this article.

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