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Teen Pregnancy and Childbearing

Note: The 2016 final birth data from the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) are now available.

Resources to Help

Parenting at any age can be challenging, but it can be particularly difficult for adolescent parents. In 2016, just over 209,800 babies were born to teen girls between the ages of 15 and 19.1 Childbearing during adolescence negatively affects the parents, their children, and society. Compared with their peers who delay childbearing, teen girls who have babies are:

  • Less likely to finish high school;
  • More likely to rely on public assistance;
  • More likely to be poor as adults; and
  • More likely to have children who have poorer educational, behavioral, and health outcomes over the course of their lives than do kids born to older parents.2

Teen childbearing costs U.S. taxpayers billions of dollars due to lost tax revenue, increased public assistance payments, and greater expenditures for public health care, foster care, and criminal justice services.2,3

The good news is that teen birth rates in the United States have declined almost continuously since the early 1990s — including a nine percent drop from 2015 to 2016 — further decreasing from 2015's historic lows.1 Between 1991 and 2015, the teen birth rate decreased by more than half in the United States (from 61.8 to 22.3 per 1,000 teens).1 Despite this decline, the U.S. teen birth rate is still higher than that of many other developed countries, including Canada and the United Kingdom.4

Recent studies have explored strategies to reduce teen childbearing and its associated negative outcomes for parents, children, and society. For example, results from economic analyses suggest that implementing evidence-based teen pregnancy prevention programs, expanding access to Medicaid family planning services, and utilizing mass media campaigns to promote safe sex may reduce teen pregnancy and save taxpayer dollars.3 Additionally, the Pregnancy Assistance Fund initiative of the Office of Adolescent Health (OAH) was set up to help pregnant and parenting teens receive the education, health care, parenting skills, and additional supports that they need. This help, in turn, may improve the likelihood of success in adulthood for these young parents, and reduce the probability that they will have or father other children as teens and that their children will grow up to become teen parents.

Notes about Definitions and Methodology

Information on miscarriages (or fetal losses) is derived from the pregnancy history data collected from multiple cycles of the National Survey of Family Growth, conducted by NCHS.

Birth data are based on the National Vital Statistics System (NVSS) and are shared with the CDC through the Vital Statistics Cooperative Program. Federal law mandates national collection and publication of birth certificate data as part of the NVSS. Therefore, although pregnancy data reported by the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) are available through 2015, birth data are the 2016 final data.

Abortion estimates are from abortion surveillance information collected from the majority of states by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC); these estimates are adjusted to national totals by the Guttmacher Institute


1 Martin, J.A., Hamilton, B.E., Osterman, M.J.K., Driscoll, A.K., & Drake, P. (2018). Births: Final data for 2016. Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics. Retrieved April 26, 2018, from https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nvsr/nvsr67/nvsr67_01.pdf
2 Hoffman, S. D., & Maynard, R. A. (Eds.). (2008). Kids having kids: economic costs and social consequences of teen pregnancy (2nd ed.). Washington, DC: Urban Institute Press
3 Thomas, A. (2012). Policy Solutions for Preventing Unplanned Pregnancy. Washington, DC: Brookings. Retrieved May 4, 2016, from http://www.brookings.edu/reports/2012/03_unplanned_pregnancy_thomas.aspx
4 United Nations Statistics Division. (2017). Demographic Yearbook 2016. New York, NY: United Nations. Retrieved April 25, 2018, from https://unstats.un.org/unsd/demographic-social/products/dyb/documents/dyb2016/table10.pdf


Content created by Office of Adolescent Health
Content last reviewed on December 8, 2016