Government and Regulations

(Somewhat) Good News About Teen Births

Analysis shows significant drop in teen births overall, but rates still remain high among some ethnicities and regions.


 

Births among all American teenagers have dropped > 40% during the past decade, according to a CDC analysis reported in MMWR. Births among Hispanic and black teens have dropped by almost half since 2006.

But despite those dramatic drops—51% among Hispanic teens and 44% among blacks—their birth rates remain twice as high than among whites. In some states, birth rates among Hispanic and black teens are more than 3 times as high as those of whites. For example, in Nebraska, the birth rate for white teens (16%) approximated the national rate; rates for black and Hispanic teens (43% and 54%, respectively) far exceeded the national rate, the MMWR report notes. Counties with higher teen birth rates were clustered in southern and southwestern states and in areas with higher unemployment and lower income and education.

“These data underscore that the solution to our nation’s teen pregnancy problem is not going to be a one-size-fits-all—teen birth rates vary greatly across state lines and even within states,” said Lisa Romero, DrPH, a health scientist in the CDC’s Division of Reproductive Health and lead author of the analysis.

The HHS’s Office of Adolescent Health partnered with the CDC from 2010 to 2015 to fund community-wide initiatives in 9 communities with some of the highest teen birth rates in the U.S., focusing on black and Hispanic teens. Projects included offering evening and weekend hours for health care and low-cost services to increase access. Preliminary data suggest that each community increased the number of teens who received reproductive health services and contraceptive methods.

Researchers attribute some of the drop in births to prevention interventions that address socioeconomic conditions such as unemployment and lower education levels. State and community leaders, their report advises, can use local data to better understand teen pregnancy in their communities and direct programs and resources to areas with the greatest need.

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