Teen Birth Rates in U.S. Down, But Still Lag Other Developed Nations

Apr 6, 2011, 4:15 PM

There’s good news — though not nearly enough — on the teen pregnancy front.

Teen birth rates in the U.S. have fallen by almost 40% over the last two decades, but more than 400,000 teenage girls still have babies each year in the U.S. — a rate up to nine times higher than in other developed countries.

The April issue of Vital Signs, a monthly report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, presents the statistics:

  • About 50% of teen mothers get a high school diploma by age 22, compared with 90% of teen girls who do not give birth.
  • Teen childbearing costs U.S. taxpayers about $9 billion each year.
  • Girls born to teen mothers are about 30% more likely to become teen mothers themselves.
  • Children of teen parents are more likely to do poorly in school and to drop out of school.

Teen pregnancy is a health factor included in the County Health Rankings. The 2011 Rankings were released last week by the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and help counties understand what influences how healthy residents are and how long they will live.

The Rankings include additional consequences of teen pregnancy:

  • Pre-term delivery and low birth weight
  • Higher likelihood than older women to receive late or no prenatal care
  • Increased risk of child developmental delay, illness and death
  • Increased likelihood of single parenthood compared to older mothers
  • Increased likelihood of unemployment and the need for welfare

This commentary originally appeared on the RWJF New Public Health blog.