The U.S. teenage birth rate may be at a record low – but more than one in four teens who gave birth were ages 15 to 17, the age bracket before teens typically complete high school, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said earlier this month.
These teens are at the greatest risk for poor medical, social and economic outcomes, the CDC added.
The teenage birth rate fell to 29.4 births per 1,000 women between the ages of 15 and 19 in 2012 or 3 percent--down 6 percent from 2011, according to the National Center for Health Statistics data. These figures don’t include miscarriages, stillbirths or abortions.
While the falling birth rate among teens is good news, the findings nevertheless indicate a need to renew prevention efforts focused on delaying sexual activity and providing contraceptive services for those who are sexually active, the CDC concluded.
Generally speaking, less sex and more contraception use seem to be among the biggest contributors to the falling rate.
“While the precise reasons for the decline in teen pregnancies are not known, various CDC surveys do indicate that more teens are delaying sexual activity and the ones who are sexually active are more likely to be using contraception,” a CDC spokeswoman said in an interview.
TV reality shows including MTV’s 16 and Pregnant and Teen Moms, which followed the lives of pregnant teenagers at the end of their pregnancy and the beginning of motherhood, also contributed to a rise in awareness and a decline in the rate, a Brookings paper found earlier this year.
In addition to less sex, more contraception and more information, Pew Research Center also cited the economy as one factor behind the decline.
Large differences in teen childbearing persist among different regions. The teen birth rate in New Hampshire was 13.8 per 1,000 teens, while in New Mexico it was 47.5. In general, teen birth rates were the lowest in the Northeast and highest across the South and Southwest.
The drop in teenage pregnancy is good news for taxpayers, who often end up footing the bills associated with the economic and social impacts of these pregnancies.
In 2008, teen pregnancy and childbirth accounted for nearly $11 billion per year in costs to U.S. taxpayers. Those costs included increased health care and foster care, increased incarceration rates among children of teen parents, and lost tax revenue because of lower educational attainment and income among teen mothers. For instance, only about half of teen mothers receive a high school diploma by the time they turn 22, versus about 90 percent of women who do not give birth during adolescence.
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