About Teen Pregnancy

The US teen birth rate (births per 1,000 females aged 15 to 19 years) has been declining since 1991.  Teen birth rates continued to decline from 17.4 per 1,000 females in 2018 to 16.7 per 1,000 females in 2019.  This is another record low for US teens and a decrease of 4% from 2018.1,2 Birth rates fell 7% for females aged 15 to 17 years and 4% for females aged 18 to 19 years.2

Although reasons for the declines are not totally clear, evidence suggests these declines are due to more teens abstaining from sexual activity, and more teens who are sexually active using birth control than in previous years.3, 4

Still, the US teen birth rate is substantially higher than in other western industrialized nations,5 and racial/ethnic and geographic disparities in teen birth rates persist.1,2

Disparities in Teen Birth Rates

Teen birth rates declined from 2018 to 2019 for several racial groups and for Hispanics.1,2 Among 15- to 19-year-olds, teen birth rates decreased:

  • 5.2% for Hispanic females.
  • 5.8% for non-Hispanic White females.
  • 1.9% for non-Hispanic Black females.

Rates for non-Hispanic American Indian/Alaska Natives (AI/AN), non-Hispanic Asians, and non-Hispanic Native Hawaiian, and other Pacific Islander teenagers were unchanged.

In 2019, the birth rates for Hispanic teens (25.3) and non-Hispanic Black teens (25.8) were more than two times higher than the rate for non-Hispanic White teens (11.4). The birth rate of American Indian/Alaska Native teens (29.2) was highest among all race/ethnicities.1  

 

Birth Rates for Females Aged 15 to 19 Years, by Race and Hispanic Origin of Mother: United States, 2018 and 2019

Birth Rates per 1,000 Females Aged 15 to 19 Years, by Race and Hispanic Origin of Mother: United States, 2018 and 2019.  All races and origins, 2018: 17.4; 2019: 16.7 Non-Hispanic White, 2018: 12.1; 2019: 11.4 Non-Hispanic Black, 2018: 26.3; 2019: 25.8 Non-Hispanic American Indian/Alaska Native, 2018: 29.7; 2019: 29.2 Non-Hispanic Asian, 2018: 2.8; 2019: 2.7 Non-Hispanic Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander, 2018: 26.5; 2019: 26.2 Hispanic, 2018: 26.7; 2019: 25.3
Data source: Martin JA, Hamilton BE, Osterman MJK, Driscoll AK. Births: final data for 2019. Natl Vital Stat Rep. 2021;70(2):1–50.

Geographic differences in teen birth rates persist, both within and across states. Although among states with low overall teen birth rates, some counties have high teen birth rates.6

Social determinants of health, such as low education and low income levels of a teen’s family, may contribute to high teen birth rates.7 Teens in certain settings are at higher risk of teen pregnancy and birth than other groups. For example, young women living in foster care are more than twice as likely to become pregnant than young women not in foster care.8

To improve the life opportunities of adolescents facing significant health disparities and to have the greatest effect on overall US teen birth rates, CDC uses data to inform and direct interventions and resources to areas with the greatest need.

The Importance of Prevention

female  and male teen

Teen pregnancy and childbearing are associated with increased social and economic costs through immediate and long-term effects on teen parents and their children.

  • Pregnancy and birth are significant contributors to high school dropout rates among girls. Only about 50% of teen mothers receive a high school diploma by 22 years of age, whereas approximately 90% of women who do not give birth during adolescence graduate from high school.10
  • The children of teenage mothers are more likely to have lower school achievement and to drop out of high school, have more health problems, be incarcerated at some time during adolescence, give birth as a teenager, and face unemployment as a young adult.11
  • On a positive note, between 1991 and 2015, the teen birth rate dropped 64%, which resulted in $4.4 billion in public savings in 2015 alone.12
two caucasian teens

Evidence-based teen pregnancy prevention programs have been identified by the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Teen Pregnancy Prevention Evidence Reviewexternal icon, which used a systematic process for reviewing evaluation studies against a rigorous standard. The Evidence Review covers a variety of diverse programs, including sexuality education programs, youth development programs, abstinence education programs, clinic-based programs, and programs specifically designed for diverse populations and settings.  In addition to evidence-based prevention programs, teens need access to youth-friendly reproductive health services and support from parents and other trusted adults, who can play an important role in helping teens make healthy choices about relationships, sex, and birth control.  Efforts at the community level that address social and economic factors associated with teen pregnancy also play a critical role in addressing racial/ethnic and geographical disparities observed in teen births in the United States.

References

  1. Martin JA, Hamilton BE, Osterman MJK, Driscoll AK. Births: final data for 2019. Natl Vital Stat Rep. 2021;70(2):1–50.
  2. Martin JA, Hamilton BE, Osterman MJK, Driscoll AK. Births: final data for 2018. Natl Vital Stat Rep. 2019;68(13):1–47.
  3. Santelli J, Lindberg L, Finer L, Singh S. Explaining recent declines in adolescent pregnancy in the United States: the contribution of abstinence and improved contraceptive use. Am J Public Health. 2007;97(1):150–6.
  4. Lindberg LD, Santelli JS, Desai S. Understanding the decline in adolescent fertility in the United States, 2007–2012. J Adolesc Health. 2016:1–7.
  5. Sedgh G, Finer LB, Bankole A, Eilers MA, Singh S. Adolescent pregnancy, birth, and abortion rates across countries: levels and recent trends. J Adolesc Health. 2015;56(2):223–30.
  6. Romero L, Pazol K, Warner L, et al. Reduced disparities in birth rates among teens aged 15 to 19 Years—United States, 2006–2007 and 2013–2014. MMWR Morbid and Mortal Wkly Rep. 2016;65(16):409–414.
  7. Penman-Aguilar A, Carter M, Snead M, Kourtis A. Socioeconomic disadvantage as a social determinant of teen childbearing in the US Public Health Rep. 2013;128(suppl 1):5–22.
  8. Boonstra HD. Teen pregnancy among women in foster care: a primer. Guttmacher Policy Review. 2011; 14(2).
  9. National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, Counting It Up: The Public Costs of Teen Childbearing 2013external icon. Accessed March 31, 2016.
  10. Perper K, Peterson K, Manlove J. Diploma Attainment Among Teen Mothers. Child Trends, Fact Sheet Publication #2010-01: Washington, DC: Child Trends; 2010.
  11. Hoffman SD. Kids Having Kids: Economic Costs and Social Consequences of Teen Pregnancy. Washington, DC: The Urban Institute Press; 2008.
  12. Power to Decide. Progress Pays Offpdf iconexternal icon. Accessed January 10, 2019.