New CDC Report Tracks Trends in Teen Births from 1940 – 2000

For Release: September 25, 2001

Contact: NCHS/CDC Public Affairs, (301) 458-4800


Births to Teenagers in the United States, 1940-2000. NVSR Volume 49, No. 10. 24 pp. (PHS) 2001-1120. [PDF – 1.2 MB]

A new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) tracks teen birth rates for more than half a century. It also includes the latest analysis of data by State and shows that rates declined significantly in all States over the past decade, with declines of 11 to 36 percent reported. Other key findings of the report by CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics show:

  • The 2000 rate (49 births per 1,000 women 15-19) is about half the peak rate recorded in 1957. The teen birth rate reached a record low in 2000, with rates steadily declining throughout the 1990s. Birth rates for teenagers generally declined in the United States since the late 1950s–reflecting the downturn in fertility for women of all ages–except for a brief, but steep, upward climb in the late 1980s until 1991.
  • The decline in teen birth rates has had a major impact on the number of babies born to teenage mothers. If the teen birth rate had remained at 1991 levels throughout the 1990s and with the rising number of teenagers in the United States, there would have been about 550,000 additional births to teenagers over the decade.
  • During the 1990s rate declines were especially large for black teenagers–down 31 percent nationwide and showing declines of at least 40 percent in 7 States. Black teens still have one of the highest rates. Overall, rates are highest for Hispanic teens and lowest for Asian teens.
  • Birth rates have fallen for teens overall in the 1990s as well as for unmarried teens since mid-decade; however, the proportion of births to teenagers that are to unmarried teens has continued to rise, from 14 percent in 1940 to 67 percent in 1990 and 79 percent in 2000. This is because very few teens are marrying today and the birth rate for married teens has dropped substantially. Nevertheless, teens do not account for the majority of births to unmarried women, only 28 percent in 2000.
  • The U.S. teen birth rate remains the highest among developed countries. According to the latest data available, the rate is lowest in Japan at about 4 births per 1,000 women and is below 10 per 1,000 in a number of countries, including Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland.

“Births to Teenagers in the United States, 1940-2000” is based on birth certificates filed in State vital statistics offices and reported to CDC. Copies of the report can be viewed or downloaded from the NCHS homepage.

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