Teenage birth rates fell 8 percent in a single year, from 2010 to 2011, new data shows. Adolescent births are now down 25 percent since 2007 and 49 percent since 1991, the National Center for Health Statistics reported Monday in the journal Pediatrics.
Births to teen mothers are now at a record low in the United States at a rate of 31.3 births per 1,000 girls and women aged 15 to 19.
Other statistics show that teenage sex is only down slightly, although girls and boys both are having sex later in their teens. “In contrast, there is an increase in contraceptive use, particularly hormonal methods,” Laura Lindberg, senior researcher at the Guttmacher Institute. Guttmacher researchers study reproductive health and behavior. Teens are also more likely now to use both condoms and hormonal birth control.
“If the rates in 1991 had remained the same, there would have been 3.6 million additional births to moms aged 15-19,” said Brady Hamilton, a statistician at the NCHS who led the study. More than a million fewer babies came into the world between 2008 and 2011. “This has had a real impact,” he said.
Hamilton also noted other factors, like the fact that many teens face living with their parents into their twenties. “Choices about whether to engage in risky behavior very much hedges on consideration of the consequences.” Lindberg says researchers at Guttmacher have seen the same trend. “It may be hard to get pregnant if you are living in your parents’ basement.”
Even with the decline, U.S. teen birth rates are higher than in other developed countries. In 2010, the U.S. had a teen birth rate of 37.9 per 1,000 women. In Russia, the country with the next-highest rate, it was 30.2 per 1,000; in Britain it was 25 per 1,000.