Teen Birth Rate Is Declining

CDC Report Shows Birth Rate for Teenagers Is Going Down in All Racial and Ethnic Groups

Medically Reviewed by Laura J. Martin, MD on February 02, 2011
From the WebMD Archives

Feb. 2, 2011 -- The teenage birth rate declined in 2009 to the lowest level ever recorded in the past 70 years, the CDC says in a new report.

Teenage births have long been a concern because teens who give birth are much more likely than older women to have premature and low-birth-weight babies. Also, babies born to teenage mothers have a higher risk of dying in infancy.

The CDC says the U.S. teen birth rate fell by more than a third between 1991 and 2005, but then took an upward turn, increasing by 5% over two consecutive years.

But the teenage birth rate declined 8% from 2007 to 2009, reaching a historic low at 39.1 births per 1,000 youths between ages 15 and 19, the new report says.

Younger Teens vs. Older Teens

Among the report’s key findings:

  • Birth rates fell significantly for teens in all age groups -- and for all racial and ethnic groups -- from 2007 to 2009.
  • Teen birth rates for each age group and for nearly all race and Hispanic origin groups were at the lowest levels ever reported in the U.S. in 2009.
  • Birth rates for teenagers 15-17 dropped in 31 states from 2007 to 2009. And rates for older teens, those 18 to 19, declined significantly in 45 states in the same period.
  • The birth rate for teens in 2009 was 37% below the 1991 rate. The 2009 rate was 59% lower than the historic high of 96.3% reached in 1957.
  • Teens 15-19 gave birth to 409,840 babies in 2009, the fewest since 1946, and 36% fewer than the 644,708 born in 1970, which was the historic high point.

“Previous studies have suggested that these declines reflected the impact of strong teenage pregnancy prevention messages that accompanied a variety of public and private efforts to focus teenagers’ attention on the importance of avoiding pregnancy,” the report states.

Other key findings in the report:

  • The birth rate for teens 15-17 fell 7% from 2008 to 2009, the largest single-year drop since 2000-2001. The 20.1 per 1,000 rate in 2009 was 48% lower than the 38.6 per 1,000 rate in 1991.
  • For teens 18-19, the birth rate fell 6% in 2009 from 2008. The 2009 rate was 30% lower than in 1991.
  • Births and birth rates for youths under 15 also are declining. In 2009, the rate for females 10-14 was 0.5 births per 1,000, the lowest ever recorded, and two-thirds lower than in 1990. And the number of babies born to children in this age group has fallen to a 60-year low, to 5,030 in 2009.

Researchers say birth rates have been declining among all age, racial, and ethnic groups, though the birth rate for Hispanic teens declined more slowly overall between 1991 and 2009. Still, the rate for Hispanic teens in 2009 was the lowest ever recorded in the two decades for which numbers are available for this group.

Birth Rates by State

Birth rates declined for teens 15-17 in 31 states during the 2007-2009 period. The largest declines were in the intermountain West and Southeast areas of the U.S. The rate increased significantly from 2007 through 2009 only in West Virginia, where it rose 17%.

The range of decline was from 5% in New York, Louisiana, and New Mexico to 27% in Vermont and New Hampshire.

The number of births to teens ages 15-19 was greatest in Mississippi, at 64.2 per 1,000, and lowest in New Hampshire, at 16.4 per 1,000.