For 70 years, the United States has been keeping track of the birth rate by age. Today, in what has to be regarded as great news by all of us, statistics were released showing that the birth rate by teenagers dropped 9% between 2009 and 2010 to 3.4 births for every 100 girls (women?) between the ages of fifteen and nineteen in America. Even more impressively, these rates dropped among every racial group, and in nearly all states.
Brody Hamilton, with the CDC stated that he believes that there are a number of influences that led to this result. One factor is the economic downturn; when we are in recessions, birth rates overall decline, since people are less optimistic about being able to support their families. Hamilton cited factors that could have related to the downturn in teenage rates, specifically. Teens appear to be delaying the onset of sexual behavior and are more likely to use contraception.
Bill Albert, a director of the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, listed another reason for the decline which I find sort of intriguing. He claims that programs like Teen Mom and 16 and Pregnant have de-romanticized teen pregnancy. I have contended for a while that The Real World has led to the disruption of many gay stereotypes. I’ve never watched either of these two programs, but I assumed that they glamorized young girls who became pregnant.
Why is this trend such great news? When looked at aggregately, there are a number of social problems that are connected to teen births. Things such as school dropout rates, health issues, infant and toddler developmental issues, and crime rates are all positively correlated with this. I’m not claiming that ALL or even MOST kids born to teenaged moms have these problems. It’s just that these problems are more likely to occur.
The rates are not universally low, of course. Southern and Southwestern states tend to have the highest rates, while states in the Northeast and Midwest are much lower. Mississippi, for example, has a rate that is nearly 4 times higher than New Hampshire.