US Teen Birth Rate Declines to Lowest Level on Record

(CN) – The teen birth rate in the United States dipped to 18 births per 1,000, the lowest since statistics started being kept, the Pew Research Center said Friday.

The news comes months after demographers reported 2018 birth rates nationwide reached record lows for women in their teens and 20s, resulting in the fewest babies born in nearly 30 years.

The 2018 birth rate among 15- to 19-year-old girls and women was less than half the rate of 41.5 births per 1,000 in 2008, according to Pew’s analysis of National Center for Health Statistics data.

While all racial and ethnic groups saw declines in teen birth rates, birth rates in 2018 for Asian and Pacific Islander teens declined by 74% from 2008 levels. For Hispanics, the teen birth rate declined by 65% over the past decade and for white and black teens the rate fell by 53% and 60%, respectively.

However, the birth rates for Hispanic and black teens was almost double the rate of white teens and more than five times the rate of Asian and Pacific Islander teens.

(Pew Research Center)

Teen birth rates involve only live births. The teen pregnancy rate – which includes miscarriages, stillbirths and abortions – stood at 43.4 pregnancies per 1,000 in 2013, down from 117.6 per 1,000 in 1990.

During the Baby Boom era of the 1950s and 60s, the teen birth rate peaked at 96.3 births per 1,000 in 1957.

The composition of teen mothers has also changed dramatically since then, according to the Pew analysis. While an estimated 85% of teen mothers in 1960 were married, the majority of teen births today – 86% – involve unmarried women.

Pew researcher Gretchen Livingston said in a blog post Friday that a decades-long decline in teen births – which began in the 1990s and accelerated slightly after the 2007 Great Recession – can be attributed to economic conditions nationwide.

“A Pew Research Center analysis in 2011 tied the declining birth rate to the economic downturn of the recession,” Livingston wrote in the post, adding that teen birth rates have fallen steadily “even as the economy has recovered.”

Livingston noted other contributors to the steady decline include more effective contraception tools, people having less sex and wider dissemination of pregnancy prevention information.

“For one thing, there has been a significant decline in the percentage of never-married girls and women ages 15 to 19 who report that they have ever had sex, from 51% in 1988 to 42% in 2011-15,” Livingston wrote, citing National Survey of Family Growth data.

Female teens’ use of emergency contraception, such as the morning-after pill, rose from 8% in 2002 to 23% in 2011-15, the study found. Use of more effective, long-acting contraceptives like intrauterine devices rose from 0.4% in 2005 to 7% by 2013.

Citing a 2014 Brookings report, Livingston noted MTV programs such as “16 and Pregnant” and “Teen Mom” may have contributed to “up to a third of the decline in teen births from June 2009” to the end of 2010.

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