THURSDAY, May 23 (HealthDay News) -- Teen birth rates in the
United States are dropping sharply, especially among Hispanic
teens, according to a new government report.
Overall, the rate of birth among teens aged 15 to 19 dropped by
nearly one half from 1991 to 2011 -- from about 62 births for every
1,000 teens to 31 births for every 1,000.
From 2007 to 2011, the most recent time period studied, rates
fell 25 percent, from 41.5 to about 31.
During that time, rates fell at least 30 percent in seven
states, and Arizona and Utah each saw a 35 percent drop, said Brady
Hamilton, a statistician at the U.S. National Center for Health
Statistics and a co-author of the report, which was released
All but two states -- North Dakota and West Virginia -- reported
drops of at least 15 percent, the researchers found. They tracked
live births, not pregnancies.
"It's good news," Hamilton said. "But it shows there is still much that needs to be examined and done."
When Hamilton's team looked at birth rates by ethnicity, the
decline was steepest for Hispanics, with drops averaging 34 percent
overall during the 2007 to 2011 period. In the past, Hispanic teens
had a higher birth rate: In 2007, for instance, their rate was 21
percent higher than that of black teens. By 2011, the rate for
Hispanic teens was just 4 percent higher.
In the most recent period studied, birth rates for black teens
declined 24 percent, while white teens showed a 20 percent
"There are still areas where teen births are high and that needs to be examined in greater detail," Hamilton said. State policymakers, for instance, could use the information to address changes to their education programs.
The largest declines typically were found in the Southeast,
Mountain and Pacific states, as well as the upper Midwest.
The study did not get into the reasons for the decline. However,
experts attribute the declines to strong teen-pregnancy-prevention
messages, increased use of birth control with the first sexual
experience and the use of dual contraceptive methods, such as
condoms plus the pill.
The report is a reason to cheer but not to think the problem is
solved, said one expert not involved in the study. The new finding
"underscores the remarkable progress this nation has made," said
Bill Albert, chief program officer of the National Campaign to
Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, a nonprofit organization
based in Washington, D.C.
As good as the progress is, Albert said, it's important to
realize that "our rates are still higher than in other
For instance, the teen birth rate in Japan is 4.9 per 1,000,
according to United Nations data from 2009 to 2010. In the
Netherlands, it's 5.3 -- about six times lower than in the United
Albert believes many factors explain the decline in teen birth
rates. "These rates have been driven down by the magic combination
of less sex and more contraception," Albert said. More teens are
delaying sex, he said, persuaded by sex education or parents, and
more are using birth control.
The peer effect plays a role, he said. When teens hear that
their friends are delaying sex or using birth control, it
Then there is the "MTV effect." Programs that depict teen moms
show the difficulties of pregnancy and parenthood, Albert said.
"They really do show the challenges of early pregnancy and parenthood," he said. His organization has commissioned surveys to ask teens what they think of these shows. "The overwhelming majority say these shows are sobering, not salacious," he said.
Efforts to reduce teen births must continue, Albert said, or
rates will surely go up again.
To take the National Day to Prevent Teen Pregnancy Quiz, go to
Organization to Prevent Teen and ...lanned Pregnancy.
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