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Posted at 11:30 AM ET, 02/ 2/2011

Teen birth rate hits historic low

By Rob Stein

The long decline in teen births, which had stalled for two years, seems to be back on track, federal health officials announced Wednesday.

The teen birth rate declined 8 percent between 2007 and 2009, hitting a historic low of 39.1 births per 1,000 teens ages 15 to 19, according to a new analysis from the National Center for Health Statistics.

Birth rate chartNational Center for Health Statistics/CDC

Moreover, the rates fell significantly for teens in all age groups and all racial and ethnic groups, pushing the rate for each age group and for nearly all race and ethnic groups to the lowest levels ever reported, according to the analysis.

The new statistics confirm the government's preliminary analysis of the national data that was released in December. That showed the birth rate had dropped 6 percent between 2008 and 2009--the second year in a row that the birthrate among teens fell. The 8 percent two-year decline bolstered hopes that an alarming 5 percent increase over the two previous years was an aberration.

The birth rate for young teens ages 15 to 17 fell 6 percent between 2008 and 2009, the largest single-year drop since 2001. The rate for older teens, ages 18 and 19, also fell 6 percent, which was the largest single-year decline since 1972. The number of births to teenagers in 2009 fell to 409,840, which is the fewest since 1946 and 36 percent fewer than in 1970, which was the highest in history.

The reason for the record low remains unclear. But some experts have attributed it to the recession, noting that the overall fertility rate as well as the total number of births in the United States fell a second straight year in 2009 as well. Others, however, suggested that the intense concern about the 2005 to 2007 increases and the attention it garnered may have gotten through to teens. Some data, for example, indicate that the use of birth control pills and other forms of contraception was increasing.

The rise in teen pregnancies had triggered an intense debate about whether increased funding for sex-education programs that focus on encouraging abstinence may be playing a role. As a result, proponents of abstinence education welcomed the new data, saying they exonerated their approach. Critics, however, said the recession and efforts to increase contraceptive use was more likely the cause.

Experts noted that despite the reduction, the teen birth rate in the United States remains far higher than that in other industrialized nations.

The Obama administration has launched a $110 million teen pregnancy prevention effort that will support a range of programs, including those that teach about the risks of specific sexual activities and the benefits of contraception and others that focus primarily on encouraging teens to delay sex.

By Rob Stein  | February 2, 2011; 11:30 AM ET
Categories:  Family Health, Kids' health, Motherhood, Parenting, Pregnancy, Reproductive Health, STDs, Sex, Teens, Women's Health  
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The article fails to detail the demographics of teen pregnancy.


Posted by: dokadow | February 2, 2011 12:55 PM | Report abuse

The article fails to detail the demographics of teen pregnancy.


Well..what do you want to know, of course it is three times higher for lainos...than the others...WAPO doesn't want anyone to know that.

Posted by: mark0004 | February 2, 2011 1:42 PM | Report abuse

What about *pregnancy* rates? Are they going down,too, or is the abortion rate going up? Why isn't abortion discussed as a factor in birth rates? Too uncomfortable a subject for a so-called journalist to delve into?

Posted by: jonnywang | February 2, 2011 2:38 PM | Report abuse

Yet the birth rate in Lynchburg, VA for Teens is through the roof. Could we get data on birth rates among teens in the "Bible Belt"?

Seems the place with "abstinence" until marriage education and where teens are carded for condoms are bucking the trend. (I am 30 and was carded for condoms in Madison Heights,VA. Was told "making sure your over 18.")

Posted by: spikerogan | February 2, 2011 2:53 PM | Report abuse

If teen births are down, where is the army's cannon fodder supposed to come from?

Posted by: Pinget2 | February 2, 2011 3:03 PM | Report abuse

I consider this piece to be very poorly written.
What are we supposed to draw from this? Is contraception up? Are abortions increasing?
Is abstinence on the rise?
Where are geographic and cultural statistics?
Were all the editors snowed in at home??

Posted by: thornegp2626 | February 2, 2011 4:02 PM | Report abuse

How long will it take for sarah to come out and credit bristol?? Would not surprise me one bit - you know her message is just so wonderful if only colleges would not censor her????

Posted by: nomoredebt | February 2, 2011 4:03 PM | Report abuse

raise the birth rate in America...
lower the foreign imigration rate...

Posted by: DwightCollins | February 2, 2011 4:31 PM | Report abuse

Of course this leaves a lot of unanswered questions. It's not a news article, it's a blog -- what passes for journalism these days in the Post, as opposed to well-researched, well-edited news articles.

Posted by: dottie_b | February 2, 2011 4:43 PM | Report abuse

High school girls and boys were signing abstinence before marriage contracts in the first years of the 2000 decade. I'm going to guess that, although they all broke the contract before they graduated, just a couple of years with their pants on created this statistical drop in pregnancies.

Posted by: HookedOnThePost | February 2, 2011 4:46 PM | Report abuse

When I read this I was skeptical.

Then I realized that they included the birth rate of MARRIED teens from the pre-1970 data.

Posted by: ChicagoKen | February 2, 2011 4:52 PM | Report abuse

I am amazed with the paranoia of the posters. I am a CDC retiree have worked with demographic data for over thirty years and have a few comments:

This is preliminary data. The final report from the National Center for Health Statistics will have more answer than most of the poeple can assimilate - race, by age, married and unmarried, etc.

Check out this website rather than spouting of paranoid bloviation:

Posted by: wobbleman47 | February 2, 2011 5:30 PM | Report abuse

When did the "morning after" pill get approved for OTC sales??

Posted by: ssklarow | February 2, 2011 7:26 PM | Report abuse

When did the "morning after" pill get approved for OTC sales?? 4/22/2009 "The Food and Drug Administration said Wednesday it was accepting rather than appealing a federal judge’s order that lifts Bush administration restrictions limiting over-the-counter sales of “Plan B” to women 18 and older. "

Posted by: ssklarow | February 2, 2011 7:30 PM | Report abuse

This lacks serious details...and birth rate hits historic low??? i beg to differ, everyday i log into facebook i'm seeing more and more girls belly's poked out, all under 23, and synograms pictures....

Posted by: MsHayes_HRD | February 2, 2011 7:35 PM | Report abuse

It's difficult to expect that education has no impact on behavior. Liberals want drug rehab for addicts and education for minorities convicted of violent crime. When it comes to educating teenagers on abstinence, they do a 180 and say education cannot change anyone.

Posted by: blasmaic | February 2, 2011 7:55 PM | Report abuse

You know one big factor that has dropped this rate? 82% of kids who have seen the show say they watch MTV's "16 and Pregnant" say they have a better understanding of how hard it is to be a Teen Parent. Forget the $100 million for programs just make watching the show mandatory.

Posted by: veronica8 | February 3, 2011 9:04 PM | Report abuse

You know one big factor that has dropped this rate? 82% of kids who watch MTV's "16 and Pregnant" say they have a better understanding of how hard it is to be a Teen Parent. Forget the $100 million for programs just make watching the show mandatory.

Posted by: veronica8 | February 3, 2011 9:04 PM | Report abuse

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