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Teen birth rate hits record low, and here's why
Just in time for Prevent Teen Pregnancy Day Wednesday, officials confirm that teen pregnancy is at a record low. - photo by Lois M Collins
Just in time for Prevent Teen Pregnancy Day, which was Wednesday, officials confirm that teen pregnancy is at a record low.

A new report from the National Center for Health Statistics says teens for the first time since data was regularly collected are giving birth at a rate below 25 per 1,000 teen females ages 15 to 19.

An updated analysis by the Pew Research Center notes differences based on race and marital status. "Nonwhite and younger teens have led the way in declining birth rates in recent years. Since the most recent peak in 2007, the birth rate among all teens has dropped by 42 percent. The declines among Hispanic (50 percent), Asian or Pacific Islander (48 percent) and black (44 percent) teens have outpaced this national average, while the decline among white teens (36 percent) has been somewhat more modest," wrote Eileen Patten and Gretchen Livingston. "Birth rates among younger teens ages 15-17 have also fallen faster dropping by 50 percent, compared with a 39 percent decline among older teens ages 18 and 19."

They noted that "although the teen birth rates among blacks and Hispanics have fallen faster than among whites, the racial disparity in teen childbearing remains wide. Hispanic and black teens ages 15-19 had birth rates at least twice as high as the rate among white teens in 2014. Asians and Pacific Islanders had the lowest teen birth rate less than half the rate among whites."

Their analysis credits "less sex, use of more effective contraception and more information about pregnancy prevention."

In March, we reported on research in the New England Journal of Medicine, that tracked a 19 percent drop in the unintended pregnancy rate from 2008 and 2011, "to its lowest level in 30 years." Even so, authors Lawrence B. Finer and Mia R. Zolna, both of Guttmacher Institute, said nearly half of all pregnancies are unplanned.

According to that article, which was not solely about teen pregnancy, "both unintended pregnancies in the United States and the number of abortions have fallen." It said the researchers call "the former decrease the 'most plausible' explanation for the latter."

Finer noted that "all categories of unintended pregnancies have been falling: 'The pregnancies that end in abortion, the pregnancies that end in birth, the pregnancies that end in miscarriage. It's overall decline that is driving the drop in both abortion and unplanned birth,' he said."

The Pew analysis found that "pregnancy prevention programs and messages directed to teens may also have played a role. A 2014 Brookings report found that the MTV programs "16 and Pregnant" and "Teen Mom," reality TV shows that follow the struggles of teen mothers, may have contributed to up to a third of the decline in teen births from June 2009, when they began airing, through the end of 2010."

Bill Albert, spokesman for the national Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy," said in an interview a few months ago that claims of more teens choosing to have abortions are not accurate.

"We have seen simultaneous declines in pregnancy, birth and abortions," he said, noting teens are "clearly making better decisions." He said research also suggests teens have been waiting longer to become sexually active.
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