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Teen Pregnancy and Childbearing

Note: The 2017 final birth data from the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) are now available.

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 adolescent females ages 15-19.1 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 children born to older parents.2

Teen childbearing costs U.S. taxpayers billions of dollars annually due to lost tax revenue, increased public assistance payments, greater expenditures for public healthcare and foster care, and higher rates of incarceration among children of teen parents.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 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 Office of Adolescent Health’s (OAH) Pregnancy Assistance Fund Program was established to help pregnant and parenting teens receive the education, healthcare, parenting skills, and additional supports that they need. This assistance may help improve the likelihood of success in adulthood for these young parents as well as reduce the probability that they will have other children as teens and that their children will become teen parents.

Resources to Help


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 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 Interagency Working Group on Youth Programs. (n.d.) Adverse Effects. Retrieved from https://youth.gov/youth-topics/pregnancy-prevention/adverse-effects-teen-pregnancy.
4 United Nations Statistics Division. (2017). Demographic Yearbook 2016. New York, NY: United Nations. Retrieved 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 May 13, 2019