Teens Less Likely to Have Second Baby

New Study Points to Decline in Rate of Second Births

For Release: Thursday, December 17, 1998

Contact: NCHS Press Office (301) 458-4800, paoquery@cdc.gov

Decline in Teenage Birth Rates, 1991-97: National and State Patterns. Vol. 47, No. 12. 20. pp. (PHS) 99-1120 [PDF – 426 KB]

Teenage birth rates have declined substantially during the 1990s, but a new study shows that the most dramatic decline is in the birth rate for young women who have already had one child, HHS Secretary Donna E. Shalala announced today.

While there was a 6-percent decline in first births to teenagers, the rate of second births for teens was down by 21 percent between 1991 and 1996. This detailed analysis of teen childbearing shows that the decline in second births began early in the decade and was joined later by the drop in first births to teens.

“This is a very positive change in the pattern of teen childbearing in America,” Secretary Shalala said. “While a first baby poses difficulties for a young woman, her baby and her family, a teenager with two or more children is at greater risk for a host of difficulties,” she said. “From an ability to recover physically and financially from a earlier pregnancy to the capacity to raise her child in a secure and healthy environment, a second baby can dim not only the hopes for that teenager but the future of her child as well,” the Secretary said.

“Declines in Teenage Birth Rates: National and State Patterns, 1991-97,” issued by the National Center for Health Statistics, a part of HHS, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention tracks teenage childbearing in the United States, looking at the long term trends for the nation and the patterns by state in recent years.

“These new data clearly show that efforts to help the teenage mother avoid a second pregnancy are working,” said CDC Director, Dr. Jeffrey Koplan. Many programs–nationwide and at the community level–have sought to provide these young women with the information and resources they need to postpone their childbearing in favor of education and personal growth and maturity, he said.

Despite the reduction in repeat childbearing, about 90,000 teens gave birth to their second child in 1997, out of a total of just over 500,000 births to teenagers. The overall teen birth rate dropped 15 percent from 1991 through 1997.

The report shows that after increasing sharply in the late 1980s, birth rates have been on the decline for American teenagers since 1991. Rates are down more for younger teens (15-17) than older teens (18 and 19). Teenage childbearing is down in all race and ethnic groups, but the largest declines documented are for black teenagers, especially younger black teens. Despite this decline, however, the birth rate for black teens is still high, exceeded only by the rate for Hispanic teens.

Most teenagers who had a baby in 1997 were unmarried. Among teenage mothers 15-17 years of age, the proportion who were unmarried more than doubled from 43 percent in 1970 to 87 percent in 1997. Similarly, among teenage mothers ages 18-19, the proportion more than tripled from 22 percent in 1970 to 72 percent in 1997.

While the majority of teen mothers are unmarried, teenagers do not account for the majority of all births to unmarried women. The study shows that as recently as 1975, more than half of all births to unmarried women were to teenagers; by 1997, that proportion had dropped to less than a third.

Based on information from birth certificates filed in State vital statistics offices and reported to NCHS, the report documents a wide variation–a three-fold difference–in teen birth rates by state, yet all states reported a decline. The report presents data for the nation for 1997; state estimates and detailed rates by birth order are available through 1996.

Note: HHS press releases are available on the World Wide Web.