Teen Births in the U.S.

Good News on U.S. Teen Births                                                                 

The numbers

As shown in the figure below, over time, there has been a dramatic decline in the teen birth rate. It fell by 81 percent from 89 per 1000 women age 15 to 19 in 1960 to 16.6 per 1000 in 2019.[1] [2] [3] This has substantially contributed to a lower overall U.S. birth rate that declined from 22.7 per 1000 population in 1960 to 12 per 1000 in 2019. [4]

U.S. Teen Birth Rate

In 1990, there were an estimated 1 million teen pregnancies. About three-quarters of these pregnancies were unintended, nearly half of them were terminated by miscarriage or induced abortion, and there were 521,626 births to U.S. women aged 15-19 years, a teen birth rate of 61.8 per 1000.[5]  This represented about 13 percent of the total of 4.16 million births in 1990.[6]

By 2013, teen pregnancies had declined by half when about 448,000 women aged 15–19 became pregnant. Depending on the state, between 56 percent to 79 percent of these pregnancies were unintended, a high proportion of them was terminated by miscarriage or induced abortion, and there were 273,105 births in 2013.[7] Between 2013 and 2019, births to teenage mothers declined by 37 percent to 171,553.[8] This total made up only 5 percent of the 3.745 million U.S. births in 2019.[9]

The benefits of fewer teen births

Avoidance of teen pregnancy fosters the social and economic conditions for women and their children. Adolescent pregnancy and parenthood are associated with lower educational attainment and less likelihood of attaining high-paying occupations that provide alternatives to motherhood. Avoiding teen childbearing frees women to pursue education, employment, and other life opportunities and, on average, leads to the choice of small families.[10]

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.[11] According to the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, fewer than 2 percent of teen mothers finish college by age 30. Young women who give birth while attending a community college are 65 percent less likely to complete their degree than women who do not have children during that time.[12][13]Higher levels of education and social status are associated with lower fertility. Better educated women are also better able to manage their fertility and avoid unintended pregnancies. Women with college degrees have children an average of seven years later than those without — and often finish school, establish careers with adequate income, decrease the likelihood of living in poverty, and requiring public assistance.[14][15]

Investing in education and contraceptive services for teens benefits society

Investing in family planning for teens has contributed to a decrease in U.S. birth and population growth rates. A combination of improved sexuality education and access to better contraception are the main drivers of the decline in teen pregnancy. The use of long-acting reversible contraceptives (LARC), implants, and intrauterine devices (IUDs) is more effective at preventing pregnancy than the methods most commonly used by adolescents: male condoms and oral contraceptives.

Colorado has a high percentage of teens ages 15-19 using LARCs. Colorado's Family Planning Initiative, a $23 million program to increase the use of LARC to prevent unwanted pregnancies over a seven-year period, was initiated in 2009 and by 2012 had reduced the teen birth rate by 5 percent, and by 2015, in clinics receiving federal Title X funding, by 20 percent.[16][17]

Even with a substantial 60-year decline, pregnancy and birth rates of U.S. teens ages 15 to 19 remain among the highest among industrialized nations.[18] Roughly 1-in-4 girls will become pregnant at least once before age 20.[19] The social, health and financial costs of adolescent pregnancy and parenthood include disruption of education, limitation of reaching career goals, and increased likelihood of living in poverty and depending on public assistance. Compared to children born to older parents, their children are more likely to suffer from low school achievement, enter the child welfare and correctional systems, drop out of high school and become teen parents themselves. 

Teen births create high costs for taxpayers and states. The average cost nationally to provide medical and economic support during pregnancy and the first year of infancy is $16,000 per teen birth. According to an analysis conducted by Power to Decide (formerly the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy), previous declines in births among teens saves $4.4 billion in public spending each year. Elimination of all teen pregnancies would save an additional $1.9 billion annually.[20]

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[1]Why is the teen birth rate falling? Pew Research Center.

[2]Child Trends. Teen births. 2019. Retrieved from https://www.childtrends.org/indicators/teen-births.

[3] National Center for Health Statistics.  https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data_access/vitalstatsonline.htm

[4] U. S. Birth Rate 2050-2021. Macrotrends. https://www.macrotrends.net/countries/USA/united-states/birth-rate

[5] NCHS. Advance report of final natality statistics, 1990. Hyattsville, Maryland: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Public Health Service, CDC, 1993. (Monthly vital statistics report; vol 41, no. 9, suppl).

[6] Number of births in the United States from 1990 to 2018. Stasia.

[7] Kost K, Maddow-Zimet I and Arpaia A, Pregnancies, Births and Abortions Among Adolescents and Young Women in the United States, 2013: National and State Trends by Age, Race and Ethnicity, New York: Guttmacher Institute, 2017,

[8] Hamilton BE, Martin JA, Osterman MJK. Births: Provisional data for 2019. Vital Statistics Rapid Release; no 8. Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics. May 2020. Available from: https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/ vsrr/vsrr-8-508.pdf

[9] Hamilton BE, Martin JA, Osterman MJK. Births: Provisional data for 2019. Vital Statistics Rapid Release; no 8. Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics. May 2020. Available from: https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/ vsrr/vsrr-8-508.pdf.

[10] Starbird E, Norton M, Marcus R. Investing in family planning: key to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, Global Health: Science and Practice, 2016;4(2):191–210. http://www.ghspjournal.org/content/4/2/191.full.pdf.

[11] Perper K, Peterson K, Manlove J. Diploma Attainment Among Teen Mothers. Child Trends, Fact Sheet Publication #2010-01: Washington, DC: Child Trends; 2010

[12] Marshall O. The drop out crisis and teen pregnancy. Progressive Policy Institute. Washington DC. June 29, 2011.  https://progressivepolicy.org/blogs/the-drop-out-crisis-and-teen-pregnancy/

[13] Postcard: Teen Pregnancy Affects Graduation Rates. National conference of State Legislators June 17, 2013.

[14] National Research Council (U.S.) Panel on Adolescent Pregnancy and Childbearing; Hofferth SL, Hayes CD, editors. Risking the Future: Adolescent Sexuality, Pregnancy, and Childbearing, Volume II: Working Papers and Statistical Appendices. Washington (D.C.): National Academies Press (U.S.); 1987. CHAPTER 8, THE CHILDREN OF TEEN CHILDBEARERS. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK219236/

[15] Livingston G. For most highly educated women, motherhood doesn’t start until the 30s
 Pew Research Center January 15, 2015.

[16] Lindo JM, Packham A. "How Much Can Expanding Access to Long-Acting Reversible Contraceptives Reduce Teen Birth Rates?," American Economic Journal: Economic Policy, 2017;9(3):348-376.

[17] Seaman J. Colorado teen pregnancies dropped by 20 percent near these clinics. Now their funding is at risk. The Denver Post. March 22, 2019

[18] Teen Pregnancy Prevention. National Conference of State Legislatures. October 11, 2018.  https://www.ncsl.org/research/health/teen-pregnancy-prevention.aspx

[19] Teen Pregnancy in the United States. Fast Facts. The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy. April 2016. https://powertodecide.org/sites/default/files/resources/primary-download/fast-facts-teen-pregnancy-us.pdf

[20] Progress Pays Off. Power to Decide. January 2018. https://powertodecide.org/sites/default/files/media/savings-fact-sheet-national.pdf


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