A National Strategy to Prevent Teen Pregnancy: Annual Report 1998-99. Trends in Teen Births and Pregnancies

06/30/1999

The Department is pleased to report that, according to the latest data compiled from HHS' National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) (through 1998), teen birth rates continue to decline steadily. Notably, these declines cut across ages (younger and older adolescents) and race and Hispanic origin. Further, fewer teenagers are having second children.

The Decline in Teen Birth Rates Has Continued for 7 Consecutive Years. Both national and state-level teenage birth rates have fallen since 1991. The overall rate for teenagers declined by 18 percent from 1991-1998 (62.1 per 1,000 teens aged 15-19 in 1991 to 51.1 in 1998). Data for states through 1997 show that:

  • Teen birth rates have fallen in all states (the decline is not statistically significant for Rhode Island).1
  • Rates fell by 20 percent or more in 10 states and the District of Columbia.

Teen Birth Rates by Age. Birth rates for teenagers differ substantially by age. In 1998, 82.0 of every 1,000 older teens had a baby, more than 2.5 times the rate for teens aged 1517, which was 30.4 per 1,000, a record low.2,3 The decline in the rate since 1991 experienced by older teens largely reverses the 19 percent increase found during the late 1980s.3,4

  • The U.S. birth rate for teenagers declined 2 percent from 1997 (52.3 per 1,000 aged 15-19) to 1998, and 18 percent from 1991 to 1998.2,3
  • The U.S. rate fell more for younger than for older teenagers. Birth rates dropped 29 percent for girls 10-14 years old, 21 percent for 15-17 year olds and 13 percent for 18-19 year olds.2,3
  • The rate for teens aged 15-17 years fell 5 percent between 1997 (32.1 per 1,000) and 1998, and 21 percent between 1991 (38.7 per 1,000) and 1998.
  • The rate for older teens aged 18-19 declined 2 percent from 1997 to 1998 and 13 percent since 1991 (94.4 per 1,000).

Trends by Race and Hispanic Origin. Birth rates for black teenagers have dropped steeply in the 1990s. Since 1991, black teenagers have shown the largest declines in teen childbearing.

  • The overall rate for black teens fell 26 percent from 1991 to 1998 (115.5 per 1,000 aged 15-19 in 1991 to 85.3 in 1998).
  • The rate for young black teenagers dropped 32 percent from 1991 to 1998 (84.1 per 1,000 aged 15-17 in 1991 to 56.8 in 1998).
  • The rate for older black teenagers declined 20 percent during 1991-98, from 158.6 to 126.8.

In addition, birth rates have fallen since 1991 for non-Hispanic white teenagers. The overall rate fell 19 percent (43.4 per 1,000 aged 15-19 in 1991 to 35.2 in 1998), but rates declined more for younger than for older teens. Teen birth rates have declined for Hispanic teenagers as well, but the declines began later (just since 1994) and have been smaller (12 percent). Overall, birth rates continue to be substantially higher for Hispanic and black teenagers than for non-Hispanic white teenagers; since 1994, Hispanic teens have had higher rates than any other group.

Fewer Teenage Mothers Have Second Child. One of the key HHS findings has been that the rate of second births to teenagers who have already had one child has declined 21 percent between 1991 to 1997 (221 per 1,000 in 1991 to 174 in 1997).1,4 In other words, the proportion of teen mothers who gave birth to a second child fell from 22 percent to 17 percent. The first birth rate for teenagers fell by 6 percent from 1991 to 1996 and then declined an additional 4 percent from 1996 to 1997; the first birth rate has thus declined 10 percent since 1991. The decline in the second birth rate for teen mothers is an important trend since a teenager with two or more children is at greater risk for a host of difficulties.5

Births to Unmarried Teens. Birth rates for unmarried teenagers declined again in 1997 for the third consecutive year. Despite these declines, out-of-wedlock childbearing for teens remains a serious concern. Since 1994, the rate for teens 15-17 years has fallen 12 percent, and the rate for teens 18-19 dropped 7 percent. Despite these declines in birth rates, the proportion of teen births that were to unmarried teenagers continued to increase in 1997, and in 1998 according to preliminary data.2 Eighty-seven percent of births to 15-17-year-olds and 74 percent of births to 18-19-year-olds were non-marital in 1998. 2

Data Collection and Analysis. Accurate and timely reporting of trends and variations in teen birth rates is based on information reported on the birth certificates of all babies born in the United States. This information is provided to the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) by the state health departments through the Vital Statistics Cooperative Program. NCHS and the states share the costs for collecting and processing the data. The last four years have seen faster data collection and processing at the state level and by NCHS. Information can now be analyzed and released more quickly.

The preliminary files provided by NCHS' new statistical series contain very large samples; for example, the most recent preliminary file, for 1998 births, was based on over 99 percent of all births. Data from that file were published in October 1999, and the findings from the 1997 preliminary file have recently been validated with publication of the final data for 1997.1,6

More information on the collection and reporting of teen birth data is presented in Appendix I.

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1 Ventura SJ, Martin JA, Curtin SC, Matthew s TJ. Births: Final Data for 1997. National Vital Statistics Reports; Vol. 47, No. 18. Hyattsville, Maryland: National Center for Health Statistics. 1999.
2 Martin JA, Smith BL, Mathews TJ, Ventura SJ. Births and deaths: Preliminary data for 1998. National Vital Statistics Reports; Vol. 47, No. 25. Hyattsville, Maryland: National Center for Health Statistics. 1999.
3 Ventura SJ, Mathews TJ, Curtin SC. Declines in Teenage Birth Rates, 1991-98: Update of National and State Trends. National Vital Statistics Reports, Vol. 47, No. 26. Hyattsville, Maryland: National Center for Health Statistics. 1999.
4 Ventura SJ, Mathews TJ, Curtin SC. Declines in Teenage Birth Rates, 1991-97: National and State Patterns. National Vital Statistics Reports, Vol. 47, No. 12. Hyattsville, Maryland: National Center for Health Statistics. 1998.
5 Maynard RA, ed. Kids Having Kids: A Robin Hood Foundation Special Report on the Costs of Adolescent Childbearing. New York, New York: The Robin Hood Foundation. 1996.
6 Ventura SJ, Anderson RN, Martin JA, Smith BL. Births and Deaths: Preliminary Data for 1997. National Vital Statistics Reports, Vol. 47, No. 4. Hyattsville, Maryland: National Center for Health Statistics. 1998.