After a two-year increase, the teen birth rate in the United States fell 2 percent between 2007 and 2008, according to a new report.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's National Center for Health Statistics found there were 41.5 births per 1,000 teenagers aged 15-19 years in 2008. In the previous year, the rate was 42.5.
The decline reverses two consecutive years of increase that interrupted the 34 percent decline in teenage childbearing from 1991 to 2005.
"Declines in the nation's teen birth rate are, of course, welcome news," said Sarah Brown, CEO of The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy. "Lower rates of teen childbearing mean more high school graduates, lower rates of child poverty, and a lighter burden on taxpayers."
Just a few months ago, abortion rights groups and pro-lifers debated whether abstinence education was the cause of the increase in teen birth rates between 2005 and 2006.
The Guttmacher Institute said the rise in teen birth and abortion rates coincided with an increase in "rigid abstinence-only-until-marriage programs" that received a boost in funding under the Bush administration.
American Life League, however, said there were more teen pregnancies because of Planned Parenthood's increased lobbying against abstinence programs. Only when it became popular to teach the abstinence message to teens did the pregnancy rates begin to fall in the early 1990s, the group contended.
According to the latest report, which was based on an analysis of 99.9 percent of birth records for 2008, teenagers accounted for 22 percent of all nonmarital births in 2008. The nonmarital birth rate among teens has been in decline since 1975, when teenaged mothers comprised 52 percent of nonmarital births.
Still, more than 6 in 7 births to teenagers were nonmarital in 2008, according to the report, released Tuesday.
Among unmarried women, the birth rate declined almost 2 percent from 2007 to 2008 – the first drop since a slight decline in 2001-2002. The rate per 1,000 unmarried women aged 15-44 years was 52.0 in 2008 compared with 52.9 in 2007.
In other findings, the birth rates fell for all races and Hispanic origin groups. Hispanic teenagers had 77.4 births per 1,000 which is the lowest rate ever reported for this group in two decades.
Birth rates also fell for women in the 20s and 30s, indicating more women are delaying childbearing.