Teen Birth Rates Down Across America; Hispanic Girls Had Sharpest Drop

A new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has found that teen birth rates in America fell sharply from 2007 to 2011, by as much as 34 percent on average for Hispanic girls.

"The thing that surprised me most was the big decline in rates for Hispanics: at least 40 percent in 22 states and the District of Columbia," said Brady Hamilton, a report co-author and a statistician at the CDC's National Center for Health Statistics, according to NBC News. "That was pretty impressive. It really caught my eye."

Almost every single U.S. state reported a decline in teen births in that time period, with overall rates falling at least 15 percent for all but two states – with seven states experiencing a percentage drop of more than 30 points.

The Hispanic community had the steepest drop – averaging at 34 percent, though that number rose to 40 percent in 22 states and the District of Columbia. Birth rates decreased 24 percent for non-Hispanic black teenagers, and another 20 percent for non-Hispanic white teenagers.

"This report shows the extent to which declines in birth rates by race and Hispanic origin have varied across states. In general, declines have been widespread across all states, with the largest declines generally observed in the Southeast, Mountain, and Pacific states," the CDC observes in its summary of the report.

Possible reasons for the decline in teen birth rates include increased usage of contraception and the use of dual methods, including condoms and hormonal methods, among sexually active teens, data from the National Survey of Family Growth showed.

Hamilton added that public service messages might be starting to have a real positive effect with teens.

"Teen births are the focus of many public policies," he said. "I think this shows the message is getting out."

Dr. Carlos Lerner, medical director of the Children's Health Center at the University of California, Los Angeles, added: "In settings like ours, we make sure we provide information in a culturally sensitive way in the patient's own language. As we've learned to do that better, I think the message has been becoming more and more effective."

The economic recession in the U.S. in the latter part of the last decade might also have played an important role in the drop in teen birth rates, according to Stefanie Mollborn, an associate professor of sociology at the University of Colorado Boulder.

"The drop in the teen birth rate mirrors a fairly large drop in the overall U.S. birth rate – to women of all ages – during the same period," she explained.

"This coincides with the Great Recession. Many people are less likely to have children when they're experiencing economic troubles. Since most teen mothers are in or near poverty and come from disadvantaged backgrounds, it's not surprising that they would be especially likely to have fewer births during these difficult economic times."

Access to birth control and contraception has been a hotly debated topic in the U.S. over the past year.

The Obama Administration's contraception mandate, which requires employers to provide insurance coverage for contraception and abortion-inducing drugs, has stirred up conflicting views. While some have praised the mandate for insisting that women should have access to these drugs, critics such as Jeanne Monahan of the conservative Family Research Council said that it might have the opposite effect.

"Additionally, one might conclude that the Obama administration's contraception mandate may ultimately cause more unplanned pregnancies since it mandates that all health plans cover contraceptives, including those that the study's authors claim are less effective," Monahan said about an October 2012 study in the journal Obstetrics & Gynecology, which claims that free birth control lowers teen pregnancy.

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