US Teen Birth Rate Drops

Pregnant Teen
(Image credit: Norman Pogson | Dreamstime)

The teen birth rate in the United States dropped to a historic low in 2011, with rates declining in nearly every state, according to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

There were 31.3 births per 1,000 teens in 2011, down from 41.5 births per 1,000 adolescents ages 15 to 19 years in 2007 and 61.8 births per 1,000 teens in 1991, according to the report.

Increased use of contraception played a role in the decline, according to the authors.

The steepest declinein teen birth rates was seen among Hispanic teenagers — nationally, the birth rate of Hispanic teens decreased by 34 percent between 2007 and 2011, and the rate dropped by 40 percent in some states. The birth rate of black teens declined by 24 percent, while the rate for white teenagers decreased by 20 percent.

Arizona and Utah saw the greatest declines, of 35 percent, while North Dakota and West Virginia didn’t show significant change between 2007 and 2011. The rest of the states had declines of at least 15 percent.

Infants born to teenagers are at higher risk of low birth weight, preterm birth and of dying in infancy, compared with infants born to women ages 20 and older. The public cost associated with teen births is estimated at $10.9 billion per year, according to the report.

The decrease in teen birth rates began in 1991, but was interrupted in 2006 and 2007. Since 1991, the national teen birth rate has decreased by almost half.  

If birth rates had remained at their 1991 levels, an estimated 3.6 million more births to teenagers would have occurred between 1992 and 2011, the report said.

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Bahar Gholipour
Staff Writer
Bahar Gholipour is a staff reporter for Live Science covering neuroscience, odd medical cases and all things health. She holds a Master of Science degree in neuroscience from the École Normale Supérieure (ENS) in Paris, and has done graduate-level work in science journalism at the State University of New York at Stony Brook. She has worked as a research assistant at the Laboratoire de Neurosciences Cognitives at ENS.