Teen Birth Rate Down in All States

Drives U.S. Birth Rate to Record Low

For Release: Thursday, April 29, 1999

Contact: NCHS Press Office, (301) 436-7551, paoquery@cdc.gov

Births: Final Data for 1997. Vol. 47, No. 18. 96. pp. (PHS) 99-1120. GPO stock number and price forthcoming [PDF – 676 KB]

HHS Secretary Donna E. Shalala today announced that according to a new HHS report, the national birth rate dropped to a record low in 1997, due in part to the continuing decline in the teen birth rate across the country. Overall, the teen birth rate declined by 16 percent from 1991 to 1997, with all states recording a decline in the birth rate of 15-19 year-olds between 1991 and 1997. It is the sixth year in a row that the teen birth rate has declined.

Teen birth rates declined for white, black, American Indian, Asian or Pacific Islander, and Hispanic women age 15-19. The report also found a continued decline in out-of-wedlock births, record high levels of women getting early prenatal care, and the lowest rate ever reported of smoking by pregnant women.

“Communities and parents all across America have joined with us to help our young people understand that they should delay parenthood until they are truly ready to nurture and support a child of their own,” Secretary Shalala said. “This sustained national improvement is evidence that innovative programs to reach teenagers with information and support to make responsible choices are working. It is also a reminder that most teenagers are making good choices – – focusing on their futures and saying no to anything that would jeopardize their dreams.”

“Births: Final Data for 1997,” the latest annual analysis of final birth data prepared by the National Center for Health Statistics, is a comprehensive report on birth and fertility patterns and key aspects of maternal and infant health based on data from birth certificates. The report includes the latest data for the Nation and each state on low birthweight, prenatal care, unmarried childbearing, and teenage birth rates.

According to the report, the out-of-wedlock birth rate declined for the third year in a row. The birth rate for unmarried women in 1997 was 44 births per 1,000 unmarried women aged 15-44 years, 2 percent lower than in 1996 and 6 percent lower than 1994 when the rate was at its highest.

The birth rate for unmarried black women is lower than in any year since 1969 when this rate was first calculated; the rate has dropped 18 percent since 1991. The number of births to unmarried women declined slightly to 1,257,444 in 1997, while the percent of all births occurring to unmarried women remained unchanged from the previous year at 32 percent. Of the almost 500,000 births to those 15-19 years of age, 78 percent are to unmarried teens. The birth rate for unmarried teens of all races has dropped 9 percent since 1994; the birth rate for unmarried black teens has fallen 20 percent since 1991.

The birth rate for teenagers continued to decline in 1997, falling another 4 percent to 52.3 births per 1,000 women aged 15-19 years. The rate for young teenagers 15-17 years was down 5 percent in the past year and down 17 percent from 1991 when the improvement began. For older teens, those 18-19 years, the birth rate dropped by 11 percent between 1991 and 1997. The greatest decline in teen birth rates occurred among Puerto Rican and non-Hispanic black teens, for whom the rate was down about 25 percent during this period.

All states have been successful in reducing the rate of teen births. Between 1991 and 1997, teenage birth rates fell in all states, the District of Columbia, and the Virgin Islands. In 10 states and the District of Columbia, the rate was down by more than 20 percent. Teenage birth rates vary considerably from state to state, with the lowest rate in Vermont (26.9 per 1,000 women aged 15-19) to the highest in Mississippi (73.7).

The U.S. birth rate reached a record low of 14.5 births per 1,000 population, with the total number of births, 3,880,894, the lowest since 1987. Birth rates for women in their twenties–the peak childbearing years–have changed little over the decade, while the rise in births to older mothers in their thirties continues but at a slower pace.

Mothers are more likely than ever to receive timely prenatal care during their pregnancies. First trimester prenatal care improved for the eighth consecutive year, reaching 82.5 percent in 1997. All groups have experienced an improvement in prenatal care but gains have been most pronounced among groups with lower levels of care. Since 1989, first trimester care has risen by at least 20 percent among Mexican, Puerto Rican, Central and South American, and non-Hispanic black women, and by more than 15 percent for American Indian and Hawaiian mothers. Despite these improvements, American Indian, Mexican, and non-Hispanic black women are still less likely to receive early prenatal care.

Midwives delivered about 7 percent of all babies born in 1997, up from 1 percent in 1975; about 95 percent of those deliveries were attended by certified nurse midwives. The cesarean delivery rate increased slightly to 20.8 percent, after declining throughout the 1990s.

In 1997, 13.2 percent of all women giving birth reported that they smoked during pregnancy. This is the lowest level of tobacco use during pregnancy since 1989 when this information first became available on the birth certificate. However, smoking among pregnant teenagers increased again in 1997, particularly among black and Puerto Rican teenagers; white non-Hispanic teenagers are still the most likely of all women to smoke while pregnant.

In contrast to improvements in prenatal care and a reduction in maternal smoking, the rate of preterm births increased sharply in 1997 to 11.4 percent (437,000) and the proportion of infants born low birthweight (291,000) reached the highest level in over two decades, 7.5 percent. The recent trends in preterm births (less than 37 completed weeks of gestation) and low birthweight (less than 5-1/2 pounds) are due in part to the remarkable rise in multiple births. Preterm and low birthweight rates are much higher among multiple births than among babies born in single deliveries. However, these problems are not limited to multiple births; for example, low birthweight has also been on the rise among single births during the 1990’s.

Multiple births increased substantially in 1997. Twin births increased 3 percent to 104,137 and triplet births rose 16 percent to 6,148. Births in quadruplet and quintuplet deliveries were down slightly.