In 2012, there were 29.4 births for every 1,000 adolescent females ages 15-19, or 305,420 babies born to females in this age group. Nearly eighty-nine percent of these births occurred outside of marriage. The 2012 teen birth rate indicates a decline of six percent from 2011 when the birth rate was 31.3 per 1,000.The teen birth rate has declined almost continuously over the past 20 years. In 1991, the U.S. teen birth rate was 61.8 births for every 1,000 adolescent females, compared with 29.4 births for every 1,000 adolescent females in 2012 (see Figure 1). Still, the U.S. teen birth rate is higher than that of many other developed countries, including Canada and the United Kingdom.
Not all teen births are first births. In 2012, almost one in five (17 percent) births to 15- to 19-year-olds were to females who already had one or more babies. Avoiding repeat teen births is one of the goals of OAH’s Pregnancy Assistance Fund (PAF) grant program to States and Tribes. Grantees may use PAF funds to help pregnant and parenting teens complete high school or earn postsecondary degrees, as well as to gain access to health care, child care, family housing, and other critical supports. The money can also be used to improve services for pregnant women who are victims of domestic violence and to increase public awareness and education efforts surrounding teen pregnancy prevention, among other activities. Through PAF grants, OAH also supports several public and private organizations working with adolescent males who become young fathers. For more information about The Pregnancy Assistance Fund, look here.
Variations in Teen Birth Rates Across Populations
Teen birth rates differ substantially by age, racial and ethnic group, and region of the country. Most adolescents who give birth are 18 or older; in 2012, 72 percent of all teen births occurred to 18- to 19-year-olds. Birth rates are also higher among Hispanic and black adolescents than among their white counterparts. In 2012, Hispanic adolescent females ages 15-19 had the highest birth rate (46.3 births per 1,000 adolescent females), followed by black adolescent females (43.9 births per 1,000 adolescent females) and white adolescent females (20.5 births per 1,000 adolescent females) (see Figure 1). Estimates from 2010 data show that one in seven adolescent females (14.4%) in the United States will give birth by her 20th birthday, with substantial differences by race/ethnicity: 10 percent of white adolescent females, 21 percent of black adolescent females, and 24 percent of Hispanic adolescent females.
Although Hispanics currently have the highest teen birth rates, they have also the most dramatic recent decline in rates. Since 2007, the teen birth rate has declined by 39% for Hispanics, compared with declines of 29% for blacks and 25% for whites.
Substantial geographic variation also exists in adolescent childbearing across the United States. In 2010, the lowest teen birth rates were reported in the Northeast, while rates were highest in states across the southern part of the country (see Figure 2). See how your state compares on birth rates, pregnancy rates, sexual activity, and contraceptive use with OAH’s reproductive health state fact sheets.
|State||Teen birth rate (15-19 year olds)||Teen birth rate range|
|Alaska||36.2||30.0-39.9 (light blue)|
|Arizona||38.5||30.0-39.9 (light blue)|
|Arkansas||50.7||50 or more (navy)|
|Connecticut||16.4||Less than 20 (white)|
|District of Columbia||42.8||40.0-49.9 (blue)|
|Georgia||38.2||30.0-39.9 (light blue)|
|Hawaii||30.0||30.0-39.9 (light blue)|
|Indiana||34.8||30.0-39.9 (light blue)|
|Kansas||35.4||30.0-39.9 (light blue)|
|Massachusetts||15.4||Less than 20 (white)|
|Minnesota||19.3||Less than 20 (white)|
|Mississippi||50.2||50 or more (navy)|
|Missouri||34.5||30.0-39.9 (light blue)|
|Nevada||36.1||30.0-39.9 (light blue)|
|New Hampshire||13.7||Less than 20 (white)|
|New Jersey||18.7||Less than 20 (white)|
|New Mexico||48.8||40.0-49.9 (blue)|
|New York||21.2||20.0-29.9 (green)|
|North Carolina||34.9||30.0-39.9 (light blue)|
|North Dakota||28.2||20.0-29.9 (green)|
|Ohio||31.5||30.0-39.9 (light blue)|
|Rhode Island||21.3||20.0-29.9 (green)|
|South Carolina||39.1||30.0-39.9 (light blue)|
|South Dakota||34.3||30.0-39.9 (light blue)|
|Vermont||16.8||Less than 20 (white)|
|West Virginia||43.5||40.0-49.9 (blue)|
|Wyoming||35.2||30.0-39.9 (light blue)|
The national teen pregnancy rate has declined almost continuously over the last two decades. The teen pregnancy rate includes pregnancies that end in a live birth, as well as those that end in abortion or miscarriage (fetal loss).* Between 1990 and 2008 (the most recent year for which data are available), the teen pregnancy rate declined by 42 percent—from 116.9 to 67.8 pregnancies per 1,000 teen girls. According to recent national data, this decline is due to the combination of an increased percentage of adolescents who are waiting to have sexual intercourse and the increased use of contraceptives by teens.,
About 82 percent of teen pregnancies are unplanned. In other words, they are unwanted or occurred “too soon,” according to a national survey of adolescents. In 2008, the majority of pregnancies to adolescent females ages 15-19 in the United States—an estimated 59 percent—ended in a live birth; 14 percent ended in a miscarriage; and 26 percent ended in an abortion. The rate of abortions among adolescents is the lowest since abortion was legalized in 1973 and 59 percent lower than its peak in 1988.
* The teen pregnancy rate is the sum all live births, abortions and miscarriages (or fetal losses) per 1,000 adolescent females ages 15-19 in a given year.
Characteristics Associated with Adolescent Childbearing
Numerous individual, family, and community characteristics have been linked to adolescent childbearing. For example, adolescents who are enrolled in school and engaged in learning (including participating in after-school activities, having positive attitudes toward school, and performing well educationally) are less likely than are other adolescents to have or to father a baby. At the family level, adolescents with mothers who gave birth as teens and/or whose mothers have only a high school degree are more likely to have a baby before age 20 than are teens whose mothers were older at their birth or who attended at least some college. In addition, having lived with both biological parents at age 14 is associated with a lower risk of a teen birth. At the community level, adolescents who live in wealthier neighborhoods with strong levels of employment are less likely to have or to father a baby than are adolescents in neighborhoods in which income and employment opportunities are more limited.