Teenage Births Drop for Third Straight Year

For Immediate Release (June 24, 1996)

Contact: NCHS Press Office, Sandra Smith or Jeffrey Lancashire (301) 458-4800

Advance Report of Final Natality Statistics, 1994. Vol. 44, No. 11 supplement. 87 pp. (PHS) 96-1120 pdf icon[PDF – 902 KB]

Birth rates for teenagers in the U.S. declined in 1994 for the third straight year, according to the latest natality statistics released today by DHHS Secretary Donna E. Shalala.

The Advance Report of Final Natality Statistics, 1994 prepared by the National Center for Health Statistics, a part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, shows the birth rate for teenagers 15-19 years of age dropped from 59.6 births per 1,000 population in 1993 to 58.9 births per 1,000 population in 1994.

“This is another piece of good news in the battle against teen pregnancy, but we still have a long way to go,” Secretary Shalala said. “Every day the tragedy of teen pregnancy hurts our children, our communities, and our country. The President understands that teen pregnancy is one of the greatest problems facing our Nation, and he has demonstrated leadership and taken action to help solve it.”

To continue this progress, the administration has proposed a new $30 million Teenage Pregnancy Initiative to support community prevention efforts in cities with high teenage pregnancy rates. In the past year, DHHS funded 15 demonstration programs through the Adolescent Family Life program aimed at preventing early teenage sexual activity and pregnancy, as well as funded 13 grants through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to help communities build coalitions to reduce teenage pregnancy. (See DHHS Fact Sheet: “Preventing Teenage Pregnancy.”)

The 1994 birth rate among teenagers 15-19 years was 5 percent lower than the recent high of 62.1 in 1991. The decline from 1993 to 1994 in teenage births was 1 percent for teenagers 15-17 years (to 37.6 per 1,000 women) and 1 percent for teenagers 18-19 years (to 91.5 births per 1,000 women). Recent declines in abortion rates and birth rates for teenagers indicate that the teenage pregnancy rate has also fallen in the 1990’s.

Despite this recent decline, the 1994 rate was still higher than in any year during the period from 1974 to 1989.

Today’s report covers broad natality statistics. Overall, births in the U.S. declined for the fourth straight year in 1994 to 3,952,767. The birth rate fell 2 percent to 15.2 births per 1,000 total population, the lowest rate since 1978.

Among women of different race and ethnic groups, fertility rates were highest for Hispanic women, especially Mexican women, and black women. Successively lower rates were reported for American Indian, Asian or Pacific Islander, and white women. Rates for teenage women were highest among Mexican, Puerto Rican, and black women.

Meanwhile, the birth rate among unmarried women increased 4 percent in 1994, although the increases over the past 5 years have been much slower than that of the period 1984-1989. In 1994 nearly one out of three births were to unmarried women.

The multiple birth ratio rose to 26 per 1,000, an increase of 2 percent from 1993 and 33 percent since 1980. The higher order multiple birth ratio (primarily triplet births) jumped 12 percent, doubling since 1987 and tripling since the early 1980’s.

The report also provides a great deal of information on maternal health and behavioral characteristics, and improvements were reported in early prenatal care and reduced cigarette smoking:

  • Eighty percent of mothers began prenatal care within the first trimester of pregnancy, the third consecutive year of increase. Meanwhile the proportion of mothers with late or no care continued to decline, dropping to 4 percent.
  • Cigarette smoking during pregnancy declined again in 1994 for the fifth consecutive year to 14.6 percent of mothers. Over 12 percent of births to smokers were low birthweight (less than 2,500 grams) compared with almost 7 percent of births to nonsmokers.
  • The overall incidence of low birthweight continued to climb, rising from 7.2 to 7.3 percent. Low birthweight improved among black mothers, but rose among white mothers. There was no change in low birthweight among American Indian or Hispanic mothers, but levels increased among Asian or Pacific Islander infants.

“Advance Report of Final Natality Statistics, 1994,” Vol. 44, No. 11 supplement, can be downloaded from the National Center for Health Statistics’ (NCHS) Home Page. NCHS is part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, HHS.


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