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Premature Birth Rate Is Dropping

Study Also Shows a Decline in the Birth Rate for Teenagers

Unmarried Mothers

The research also sheds light on trends for unmarried mothers:

  • Children born to single mothers are at a higher risk for adverse consequences, such as being born at a low birth weight and living in poverty.
  • 41% of all births in 2008 were to unmarried mothers, up from 40% in 2007 and more than double the percentage of 30 years ago.
  • Though the number and percentage of all births to unmarried women have increased, the birth rate among unmarried women 15-44 decreased from 53 births for every 1,000 unmarried women in 2007 to 52 in 2008. The decrease is attributable to the fact that the total number of unmarried women in that age range increased.
  • 9% of children under 18 in 2008 had asthma, unchanged from 2007.
  • During 2007-2008, 19% of children 6-17 were obese, about the same as the 2005-2006 period.
  • In 2008, some 69% of recent high school grads had enrolled in college the fall after getting their diplomas, considerably higher than 49% in 1980.
  • The percentage of children 5-11 years old with untreated dental cavities declined from 27% in 1999-2004 to 20% in 2005-2008.
  • For youths 12-17 years old, the percentage with untreated dental cavities declined from 19% to 12% in the same two time periods.

"Looking at the data by income status for children in poverty, the percentage with untreated cavities was twice that of children who lived in families with incomes at or above 200% of the poverty level," Sondik says. "However, the percentage with untreated cavities declined across the board for all income levels."

The obesity rate for children today is triple what it was from 1976 to 1980, Sondik says.

He also points out that the percentage of teens who regularly smoke cigarettes is at its lowest level since data collection began in 1980.

In 2009, less than 3% of eighth graders reported smoking cigarettes every day, down from 10% in the mid-1990s. He says 6% of 10th graders smoked in 2009, about a third the rate of the mid-1990s, and 11% of 12th graders smoked daily, down from 25% in 1997.

In 2008, the researchers say, 90% of young adults had a high school diploma or an equivalent credential, up from 84% in 1980.

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