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Teen Birth Rates Headed in Right Direction

May 2, 2016
Plain English Version


The birth of babies to teen-age mothers peaked in 1991. Today births by teen-age mothers are less than half of what they were then.

Experts do not agree on why it is going down. The lower rate is not the same everywhere. Nor is it the same for different segments of the population.

There were sharp decreases for black and Hispanic teens. But their rates stayed much higher than that of white teens. The other big differences relate to location, education and income.

The biggest challenge is within certain U.S. counties. These are counties with higher rates of people who are out of work. They also  have lower incomes and poorer educations. Most of these counties are in the South and Southwest.

What is going on? There are several reasons. More teens are practicing abstinence (not having sex). Birth control is generally more available. New methods of contraception are available. There is more sex education in schools. The Internet has made it easier for everyone to access information.

Some experts say the decline in births is not linked to abortions.

Experts even point to a popular MTV show, “16 and Pregnant.” It shows young girls and women struggling with being mothers. They are often in tears. Millions of young people have watched the show. Teen-age births dropped after the show went on the air.

The nation’s biggest welfare program ended in 1996. It is much harder to get aid. An expert noted that teens are keen observers of the world around them.  For some, their own families had to do more with less. It may make some teens more cautious about risky behaviors.

Big differences in teen-age birth rates remain. But teens are going in the right direction.

Source: The Washington Post April 25, 2016

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