Teen Pregnancy Is Way Down

Dish Staff —  Aug 21 2014 @ 3:24pm
by Dish Staff

According (pdf) to the CDC:

Teen Pregnancy

Jason Millman unpacks the news:

Though the United States lags behind other countries, the CDC says the progress made since 1991 has amounted to 4 million fewer teen births. Citing research from the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, the CDC says this also saved taxpayers an estimated $12 billion alone in 2010 from costs associated with government-funded health care, child welfare and higher incarceration rates of teen moms. And having fewer babies born to teen mothers, the CDC points out, is good for other reasons. Teen motherhood comes with a higher health risk for the baby, educational limits for the mother and limited resources, since about 90 percent of teen births are to unmarried mothers. And babies born to teen mothers are more likely to eventually become teen mothers themselves.

Tara Culp-Ressler has more details:

The steepest declines in the teen birth rate appear to be occurring in the areas where it’s historically been the highest. Southern states — where the teen pregnancy rate has beensignificantly higher for years — have seen the largest drops, although there’s still a noticeable disparity between states in the South and states in the Northeast. Similarly, while teen births have declined across all racial groups, they’ve recently fallen the fastest among Hispanic women, who currently have the highest rate.

But what caused the decline? Jordan Weissmann addresses the question:

For its part, the CDC cites one telling paper from the American Journal of Public Health. Using government survey data on adolescent sexual behavior, it concluded that 86 percent of the decline in teen pregnancy between 1995 and 2002 could be chalked up to increased contraception use; the other 14 percent was due to abstinence. “The decline in U.S. adolescent pregnancy rates appears to be following the patterns observed in other developed countries, where improved contraceptive use has been the primary determinant of declining rates,” the researchers wrote.

Kliff concludes that maybe we’ve “just gotten lucky”:

It’s not an especially scientific answer, but it’s one that seems to describe how teen pregnancy researchers view the dramatic slowdown in the birth rate: a collision of lots of trends that all serendipitously happened in the late 2000s and early 2010s.

The recession, the uptick in IUD use, a hit MTV show that deglamorized teen pregnancy — each of these factors could have have caused a small decline on their own. Taken together, it’s possible they caused a much bigger change.

And if that is the case, that doesn’t portend especially well for the fast decline continuing.