Teenage Pregnancies on the Decline

Teen pregnancy rates in US drop significantly especially among Hispanics

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Robert Carlson, M.D

(RxWiki News) Most parents of teens share a similar fear – the fear of teenage pregnancy. However, fewer and fewer potentially young grandparents are seeing this worry become a reality.

A new national survey has shown that rates of teen pregnancy in the United States have dropped significantly, especially among Hispanics.

"Always practice safe sex."

This report, from the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS), was led by Brady E. Hamilton, PhD, of the NCHS Division of Vital Statistics.

Dr. Hamilton and team utilized data from the National Vital Statistics System’s Natality Data File, which includes information on all US births.

According to the authors, birth rates to US teens (between the ages of 15 and 19 years old) had been on the decline since 1991, but leveled off in 2006 and 2007. This new report showed that rates declined again from 2007 to 2011.

The overall rate of pregnancies dropped 25 percent during these years, falling from 41.5 per 1,000 teenagers in 2007 to 31.3 per 1,000 teenagers in 2011.

The NCHS reported that the 2011 rate was a record low, and represented a decline of almost one half from the rate of 61.8 pregnancies per 1,000 teens in 1991.

Hispanic teenage pregnancies had the steepest drop during the 2007 to 2011 period. While rates dropped 24 percent among non-Hispanic black teens and 20 percent among non-Hispanic white teens, rates among Hispanic teens declined by 34 percent.

The authors reported that while Hispanic teenagers had a rate of pregnancies 21 percent higher than that of non-Hispanic black teens in 2007, by 2011 that difference “ha[d] essentially disappeared,” down to only a 4 percent difference.

Teenage birthrates among all ethnic groups dropped by at least 15 percent in all but two states (North Dakota and West Virginia) during 2007 to 2011, and seven states experienced declines of 30 percent or more.

Rates of teenage pregnancies in Arizona and Utah dropped the most, with both states seeing declines of 35 percent.

According to the authors, “The recent declines in teen childbearing are sustained, widespread, and broad-based. If teen birth rates by age and race and Hispanic origin of mother had remained at their 1991 levels, an estimated 3.6 million more births to teenagers would have occurred from 1992 through 2011.”

The declining birth rates are important for a number of reasons, the authors noted. “Births to teenagers are at elevated risk of low birthweight, preterm birth, and of dying in infancy compared with infants born to women aged 20 and over, and they are associated with significant public costs, estimated at $10.9 billion annually,” the NCHS team reported.

Further research is needed to explore why the declines may have occurred, though Dr. Hamilton and team noted that a variety of factors may be involved, including “strong teen pregnancy prevention messages” and increased contraception use.

The report was published in May in a NCHS data brief. No conflicts of interest were reported.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
May 22, 2013
Last Updated:
August 22, 2013