Teenage Birth Rates Down in a Majority of States

For Release Thursday, December 19

Contact: (301) 458-4800

Teenage birth rates in the United States have declined over the past few years. Now, a new publication by the National Center for Health Statistics, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides an analysis of trends and variations in teenage childbearing by state.

In recent years, teenage birth rates have declined nationwide. Rates have declined steadily for black teenagers and generally been on a downward trend for white teenagers. Rates for Hispanic teenagers have been less consistent. Overall rates for both younger (15-17) and older teenagers (18-19) have been declining. The vast majority of teenage childbearing is unintended. Over 75 percent of teen births are to unmarried teenagers.

Looking at the patterns by State show that the majority of States experienced a decline in teenage childbearing from 1991 to 1994, but there was still great variation among States.

Highlights of the report show:

  • The state with the largest decline was Maine, followed by Vermont and Alaska, Idaho and Montana. About half of the States had declines of between 5 and 11 percent while the teenage birth rate for 13 States and the District of Columbia was not significantly different in 1994 than in 1991. In general the states with the lowest rates showed the greatest decline.
  • In 1994, birth rates for teenagers 15-19 ranged from a high of 114.7 in the District of Columbia to a low of 30.1 in New Hampshire. In general, the 10 States with the highest rates in 1994 were located in the South or West while the 10 States with the lowest rates were in the Northeast and Midwest. The same regional variation in birth rates was also evident for the more detailed age groups of 15-17 and 18-19.

Some of the differences in overall rates by State reflect differences in the composition of the teenage populations by race and Hispanic origin, since birth rates for Hispanic and black teenagers are more than double the rates for non-Hispanic white teenagers. To examine state variations while controlling for population differences in race and ethnicity, the report includes standardized birth rates for each State. The standardized rates for many States with high Hispanic or black populations are lower than the actual rates.

When State rates are examined separately by race and ethnicity certain geographic patterns emerge. For example, rates for non-Hispanic white teens are highest in the South. Thus the high teenage birth rates in the southern states are driven not only by the population composition but by the high rates among all of the racial and ethnic groups.

Despite the recent decline in teenage birth rates, the current rates are still as high or higher than those of two decades ago. Teenage mothers are more likely to have low-birth weight infants, to lack timely prenatal care, and to smoke during pregnancy. There are long-term economic and social problems associated with teenage childbearing. The data by state in this report provide valuable information to those evaluating teenage pregnancy prevention programs and for those targeting efforts to reach teens at risk.

“Recent Declines in Teenage Birth Rates in the United States: Variations by State, 1990-94,” by Stephanie J. Ventura, Sally C. Clarke, and T.J. Mathews presents rates for each State for 1990-94 and for the United States for 1970-94 to put State changes into perspective. The data by State are shown by teenage subgroups (15-17, 18-19, and 15-19) for 1990-94 and for those age groups by race and Hispanic origin of mother for States and the United States for 1994. Data are based on 100 percent of the birth certificates registered in all States and the District of Columbia and reported to the NCHS through the National Vital Statistics System.

For more information or for a copy of this report, contact the NCHS Public Affairs Office at (301) 458-4800 or by email at: paoquery@cdc.gov. A copy of the full report can be viewed or downloaded from the NCHS Home Page.