Teen Pregnancy Lowest in 40 Years

Pregnancies have declined dramatically with teenagers

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Chris Galloway, M.D.

(RxWiki News) Since their peak in the 1990s, teen pregnancies in the United States declined to their lowest level in nearly 40 years, in 2008.

The births and abortions that result from teen pregnancy also went down, although racial disparities are still big. The rate of pregnancy among black and Hispanic teens remains two to three times as high as for white teens.

"Researchers call for continued efforts to prevent teen pregnancies."

Kathryn Kost and Stanley Henshaw of the Guttmacher Institute, a not-for-profit sexual health research group, released the most recent report about teenage pregnancy in the U.S. In 2008, the teen pregnancy rate was 67.8 pregnancies per 1,000 females aged 15 to 19, translating to about seven percent of teen girls who become pregnant each year.

This figure is a 42 percent decline from its peak in 1990, which was 116.9 pregnancies per 1,000 women. The teen birthrate also declined by 35 percent between 1991 and 2008, from 61.8 to 40.2 births per 1,000; and the abortion rate declined 59% from its 1988 peak of 43.5 abortions per 1,000 teens, to a level of 17.8 per 1,000 in 2008.

Since its peak in the early 90s, the teen pregnancy rate has dropped by 50 percent among non-Hispanic whites, 48 percent among blacks and 37 percent among Hispanics. Kost calls these dramatic declines great news, but says that the continued racial and ethnic inequities are cause for concern.

The 2008 birthrates among black and Hispanic teens, as well as Hispanic teens’ abortion rate, were twice the rates than among whites; the abortion rate for black teens was four times that of whites.

"It is time to redouble our efforts to ensure that all teens have access to the information and contraceptive services they need to prevent unwanted pregnancies," Kost says.

Research shows that this several-decade decline in teen pregnancy was driven primarily by the improved use of contraceptions among teens, with very little of it being affected by sexual activity. Continuing the decrease in teen pregnancy rates may be driven by more effective contraception education and use.

"In sum, teens appear to be making the decision to be more effective contraceptive users, and their actions are paying off in lower pregnancy, birth and abortion rates," the report stated.

Kost and Henshaw sourced their data from the US Bureau of the Census, the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS), the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the National Survey of Family Growth, various published studies, and unpublished data from the Guttmacher Abortion Provider Surveys. 

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Review Date: 
February 13, 2012
Last Updated:
February 13, 2012