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Teenage Pregnancy and Fertility Trends -- United States, 1974,1980

CDC has previously analyzed rates of teenage fertility* in the United States for 1960, 1970, and 1974 (1). Preliminary comparative data for fertility, as well as for teenage pregnancy** are now available for 1970, 1974, and 1980 (2). Between 1974 and 1980, both pregnancy and fertility rates for sexually experienced*** 15- to 19-year-olds decreased in the United States. For all females aged 12-14 years,**** fertility rates declined, but pregnancy rates increased.

Females 15-19 years old. Between 1974 and 1980, the pregnancy rate for all females aged 15-19 years increased by 8.2%. However, the rate for sexually experienced females declined from 204.5 per 1,000 sexually experienced females to 192.8/1,000--a decrease of 5.7% (Table 3). Data on pregnancy rates for 15- to 19-year-old sexually experienced females were calculated for 37 states and the District of Columbia (D.C.).***** Between 1974 and 1980, rates declined in 27 states (Table 4); changes ranged from a 25.7% decrease in New York to a 13.1% increase in Florida.

Between 1974 and 1980, the fertility rate for sexually experienced 15- to 19-year-olds declined from 146.0/1,000 to 115.5/1,000--a 20.9% decrease (Table 3). The rate declined in all 37 states for which data were available and in D.C. (Table 4).** These declines ranged from 4.6% in Utah to 34.5% in New Hampshire.

In 1980, there were 921,696 pregnancies among 15- to 19-year-olds--an increase of 10.5% from 1974. However, between 1974 and 1980, the number of births decreased 7.3%. The percentage of all births occurring to 15- to 19-year-olds decreased from 18.8% to 15.3%.

Females under 15 years old. The number of pregnancies occurring to females under 15 years of age decreased from 24,128 in 1974 to 23,010 in 1980. However, the pregnancy rate for females aged 12-14 years rose from 3.9 in 1974 (3) to 4.3 in 1980, a 10.3% increase. This increase reflects the smaller number of females in this age group in 1980.

The fertility rate for females aged 12-14 years declined from 2.0 births/1,000 females in 1974 (3) to 1.9/1,000 in 1980, a 5.0% decrease.

In 1980, there were 10,169 births to females under 15 years of age, a decrease of 18.8% from 1974. The percentage of all births to females in this group decreased from 0.4% to 0.3%. Between 1974 and 1980, the number of births decreased in 41 states and in D.C., increased in eight states, and remained the same in one state. Reported by Program Evaluation Br, Research and Statistics Br, Div of Reproductive Health, Center for Health Promotion and Education, CDC, assisted by KL Jensen, Summer Intern, Emory University Family Planning Program, Atlanta, Georgia.

Editorial Note

Editorial Note: Between 1971 and 1982, the estimated percentage of never-married 15- to 19-year-olds with premarital sexual experience increased from 26.8% to 42.8% (4,5). Thus, analyses of pregnancy and fertility trends can be misleading if the extent of sexual experience is not taken into account.

Because estimates of sexual experience were not available for females aged 12-14 years, trends in pregnancy rates and fertility rates for this age group are based on the total population of females aged 12-14 years. However, as with older teenagers (aged 15-19 years), the number of sexually experienced females 12-14 years old has probably increased.

The absolute number of females aged 12-14 years is expected to decline 11.1%--from 5.4 million in 1980 to 4.8 million in 1990. The number of females aged 15-19 years is expected to decline even more from 10.4 million in 1980 to 8.3 million in 1990--a 20.2% decrease (6). If age-specific birth rates remain constant, the proportion of all births occurring to females under 20 years old will decline from the 15.7% reported in 1980 to 11.8% of total births in 1990 (6).

The family planning objectives for the nation state that, by 1990, there should be no unintended births to females under 15 years old and that age-specific fertility rates for 15-, 16-, and 17-year-olds should decrease to 10, 25, and 45 births/1,000 females, respectively (7). While it cannot be certain whether the objectives for the nation will be reached by 1990, fertility rates for females aged 15, 16, and 17 years declined 11.8%, 14.9%, and 13.2%, respectively, between 1974 and 1980. In 1974, the fertility rate for 17-year-olds was 57/1,000; by 1980, it had declined to 52/1,000, approximately halfway to the 1990 objective.


  1. CDC. Teenage fertility in the United States: 1960, 1970, and 1974. Regional and state variation and excess fertility. February 1978.

  2. CDC. Unpublished data.

  3. National Center for Health Statistics. Vital statistics of the United States, 1974. Volume 1--Natality. Hyattsville, Maryland: U.S. Department of Health, Education, and Welfare, Public Health Service, 1978. (DHEW publication no. (PHS)78-1100).

  4. Zelnik M, Kantner JF. Sexual and contraceptive experience of young unmarried women in the United States, 1976 and 1971. Fam Plann Perspect 1977;9:55-71.

  5. Pratt WF, Mosher WD, Bachrach CA, Horn ME. Understanding U.S. fertility: findings from the National Survey of Family Growth, Cycle III. Population Bulletin, 1984;39:1-42.

  6. U.S. Bureau of the Census. Current population reports, Series P-25, No. 952. May 1984.

  7. U.S. Public Health Service. Promoting health/preventing disease: objectives for the nation. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 1980:11-4. *Fertility rate equals live births per 1,000 females. **Pregnancy rate equals live births plus legal abortions per 1,000 females. ***Pregnancies or live births per 1,000 sexually experienced females. "Sexually experienced" is defined as ever having had sexual intercourse. ****Since no estimates of sexual experience are available for females aged 12-14 years old, and 99.6% of all 1980 births to females under 15 years of age occurred to females 12-14 years of age (National Center for Health Statistics, 1980), all pregnancy and fertility rates involving females under 15 years of age are based on the number of all females 12-14 years of age. *****Since information on sexual experience rates was available only for the black and white races, pregnancy and fertility rates were not calculated for those states that had more than 3% of births to females of other races.

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