U.S. Teen Pregnancy Rate Increases 3%


For the first time in more than a decade, the nation’s teen pregnancy rate rose 3 percent in 2006, reflecting increases in teen birth and abortion rates of 4 percent and 1 percent, respectively. The gap between Blacks and Hispanics has closed, but rates among both groups remain significantly higher than among non-Hispanic Whites.

According to a report just released by the Guttamacher Institute, the teen pregnancy rate declined 41 percent between its peak, in 1990 (116.9 pregnancies per 1,000 women ages 15-19), and 2005 (69.5 per 1,000). Teen birth and abortion rates also declined, with births dropping 35 percent between 1991 and 2005 and teen abortion declining 56 percent between its peak, in 1988, and 2005. But all three trends reversed in 2006. In that year, there were 71.5 pregnancies per 1,000 women ages 15-19. Put another way, about 7 percent of teen girls became pregnant in 2006.

Just as the long-term declines in teen pregnancy occurred among all racial and ethnic groups through 2005, the reversal in 2006 also involved all demographic groups:

  • Among black teens, the pregnancy rate declined by 45 percent (from 223.8 per 1,000 in 1990 to 122.7 in 2005), before increasing to 126.3 in 2006.
  • Among Hispanic teens, the pregnancy rate decreased by 26 percent (from 169.7 per 1,000 in 1992 to 124.9 in 2005), before rising to 126.6 in 2006.
  • Among non-Hispanic white teens, the pregnancy rate declined 50 percent (from 86.6 per 1,000 in 1990 to 43.3 per 1,000 in 2005), before increasing to 44.0 in 2006.

Because the decline among black teens was so much greater than that among Hispanics, the long-standing gap between the two groups has disappeared. However, the gap between white teens and teens of color is as large as ever.

State-level data are not yet available for 2006, but varied widely in 2005. The highest pregnancy rates were in New Mexico (93 per 1,000 women 15-19), Nevada (90), Arizona (89), Texas (88) and Mississippi (85), and the lowest rates were in New Hampshire (33), Vermont (40), Maine (48), Minnesota (47) and North Dakota (46). Teen pregnancy rates declined in every state between 1988 and 2000, and in every state except North Dakota between 2000 and 2005.

Many experts believe the significant drop in teen pregnancy rates in the 1990s was overwhelmingly the result of more and better use of contraceptives among sexually active teens. However, this decline started to stall out in the early 2000s, at the same time that sex education programs aimed exclusively at promoting abstinence became increasingly widespread and teens’ use of contraceptives declined.

Other experts say the increase could be due to an increase in poverty, immigration and complacency about AIDS, prompting lax use of birth control such as condoms.

To read the Guttamacher Institute report, click here.

To read the Guttamacher Institute press release, click here.

For additional information, click here.

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