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LaNita Harris explains two of the posters used by the Oklahoma City County Health Department, left, in their Teen Pregnancy Prevention program, in her office at the health department in Oklahoma City, Monday, July 21, 2014.

Sue Ogrocki, Associated Press - Ap

Teen birthrates are dwindling

  • Article by: Jason Millman
  • Washington Post
  • August 22, 2014 - 8:24 AM

New evidence from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Wednesday points to the ongoing and significant drop in the U.S. teen birthrate over the past 20-plus years.

The birthrate for teenagers ages 15-19 was 26.6 births per 1,000 in 2013, down 57 percent from the rate of 61.8 births per 1,000 in 1991, according to the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics.

Minnesota’s birthrate for teens declined 34 percent between 2007 and 2012, the report said, and 50 percent between 1991 and 2012.

The CDC attributed the 20-year decline to decreased sexual activity among teens, as well as more frequent use of contraception.

The historic decline in the teen birthrate has varied across states, races and ages. The birthrates for the 10-14, 15-17 and 18-19 age brackets were all at record lows in 2013. The decline has been much greater, though, for girls 15-17. The 12.3 birth per 1,000 rate for teens 15-17 fell 68 percent since 1991, compared to 50 percent for teens 18-19, whose rate is 47.3 births per 1,000.

The drop in birthrates since 2007 has been greater for the 15-17 group (43 percent compared to 34 percent).

The teen birthrate has declined across all racial groups since 1991, but the steepest declines have been recorded among Asian-Pacific Islanders (64 percent) and non-Hispanic blacks (63 percent). Asian-Pacific Islander teens currently have the lowest birthrate overall (9.7 per 1,000), while Hispanic teens have the highest rate among the racial groups (46.3 percent).

Still, the rate for Hispanic teens has fallen the fastest since 2007 (39 percent).

States have taken different approaches to reducing teen births, with differing results.

Every state has seen a decline since 1991, but rates continue to be lowest in the Northeastern states and higher in the South. New England states all had teen birthrates under 20 per 1,000. Eight states had rates above 40 per 1,000, with New Mexico recording the highest at 47.5. The District of Columbia joined four states in seeing declines of more than 60 percent since 1991.

The United States’ teen birthrate still ranks among the highest for developed countries. While Denmark, Switzerland and Japan recorded teen birthrates under 5 per 1,000, the United States finds itself among seven of 31 countries highlighted by the CDC with rates exceeding 20 births per 1,000 teens.

The CDC said the progress made since 1991 amounted to 4 million fewer teen births.

© 2014 Star Tribune