Trends in Teen Pregnancy and Childbearing

Teen Births

In 2019, the teen birth rate was 16.7 (births for every 1,000 females ages 15-19), down four percent from 2018 and down 73 percent from the 1991 peak of 61.8. There were 171,674 births to females in this age group, which accounted for less than five percent of all births in 2019.1 And given the age of these mothers, in 2019 nine in ten (90.5 percent) of these births occurred outside of marriage.1 The teen birth rate has declined to a new low each year since 2009.1 Still, the teen birth rate in the United States remains higher than that in many other developed countries, including Canada and the United Kingdom.4

Not all teen births are first births. In 2019, roughly 16 percent of live births to 15- to 19-year-olds were at least the second child born to the mother.1

Variations in Teen Birth Rates across Populations

Teen birth rates differ substantially by age, race and Hispanic origin, and region of the country. Most adolescents who give birth are 18 or older; in 2019, 76 percent of all teen births occurred to 18- to 19-year-olds.1 As shown in Figure 1, between the 1991 peak and 2019, the overall teen birth rate fell from 61.8 to 16.7 births per 1,000 adolescent females ages 15-19, and declined across racial and Hispanic origin groups. During the same time period, the teen birth rate fell from 118.2 to 25.8 for Black adolescents, from 104.6 to 25.3 for Hispanic adolescents, and from 43.4 to 11.4 for White adolescents. Birth rates are higher among American Indian/Alaska Native, Native Hawaiian/Other Pacific Islander, Hispanic, and Black adolescents than among teens overall. In 2019, American Indian/Alaska Native adolescent females ages 15-19 had the highest birth rate (29.2 births per 1,000 females ages 15-19), followed by Native Hawaiian/Other Pacific Islander adolescents (26.2). Asian adolescents had the lowest rate (2.7).1 

Figure 1: Birth rates for females ages 15-19, by race and Hispanic origin of mother, 1990-2019

Refer to the previous paragraph for a description of data points

Sources:

Note:

  • Race categories shown are non-Hispanic. Estimates shown come from published NCHS reports. Estimates from before 2016 use “bridged race” categories consistent with the 1977 Office of Management and Budget (OMB) standards and only presents estimates separated by Hispanic origin for Black and White racial groups. Beginning with the 2016 report, the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) reports race consistent with the 1997 OMB standardswhere “single race” is defined as one race reported on the birth certificate and which divided the previous “Asian or Pacific Islander” into two categories, “Asian” and “Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander.” The differences in the categorization of non-Hispanic racial groups from using single-race versus bridged-race categories may result in small differences in estimates. 

Teen birth rates also vary substantially across regions and states. In 2019, 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).1 See how your state compares on birth rates, pregnancy rates, sexual activity, and contraceptive use with OPA's national and state adolescent reproductive health fact sheets.

Figure 2: Birth rates for females ages 15-19 by state, 2019

Refer to the source page linked below the figure for full data tables and descriptions of data points.

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Health Statistics. (n.d.). Teen birth rate by state. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/pressroom/sosmap/teen-births/teenbirths.htm

Teen Pregnancies

The national teen pregnancy rates for ages 15-17 and 18-19 (the number of pregnancies per 1,000 females in the specified age group) have declined almost continuously for nearly 30 years. The decline has been most striking among teens ages 15-17 - by 75 percent from 78 pregnancies per 1,000 females in 1988 to 19 pregnancies per 1,000 females in 2016.6 According to recent research, this decline is due to the combination of delays in sexual intercourse among adolescents and the increased use of effective contraceptives by adolescents.7,8

The declines in national teen pregnancy rates have been reflected in declines in birth rates as well as abortion rates. In 2013, the majority — an estimated 61 percent — of pregnancies to adolescent females ages 15-19 in the United States ended in a live birth; 15 percent ended in a miscarriage; and 25 percent ended in an abortion. The rate of abortions among adolescents is the lowest since abortion was legalized in 1973 and is 76 percent lower than its peak in 1988.7

* Pregnancies are defined "as the sum of births, abortions, and fetal losses (i.e., miscarriages, ectopic pregnancies, and stillbirths).6

Who is at Greater Risk of Adolescent Childbearing?

Well-documented 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 a baby.9 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.10At the community level, adolescents who live in wealthier neighborhoods with strong levels of employment are less likely to have a baby than are adolescents in neighborhoods in which income and employment opportunities are more limited.9 The link between these socioeconomic characteristics and teen childbearing, as well as the relatively high rates of adolescent childbearing seen among Black and Hispanic teens, can be attributed to inequities in access to knowledge about contraception and reproductive healthcare, differences in attitudes about teen pregnancy, and distrust and fear of medical professionals due to some groups’ history with the medical field.11 Professionals working with youth should be aware of and acknowledge the historical reasons disparities in adolescent childbearing exist in the United States.

Footnotes

1 Martin, J. A., Hamilton, B. E., Osterman, M. J. K., & Driscoll, A. K. (2021). Births: Final data for 2019 (National Vital Statistics Reports Volume 70, Number 2). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nvsr/nvsr70/nvsr70-02-508.pdf - PDF back to top

2 Finer, L. B., & Zolna, M. R. (2016). Declines in Unintended Pregnancy in the United States, 2008-2011. The New England Journal of Medicine374(9), 843–852. https://doi.org/10.1056/NEJMsa1506575 back to top

3 >Martin, J. A., Hamilton, B. E., Osterman, M. J. K., & Driscoll, A. K. (2019). Births: Final data for 2018 (National Vital Statistics Reports Volume 68, Number 13). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nvsr/nvsr68/nvsr68_13-508.pdf - PDF back to top

4 The World Bank. (n.d.). Adolescent fertility rate (births per 1,000 women ages 15-19 [Data set]. https://data.worldbank.org/indicator/SP.ADO.TFRT back to top

5 Cook, E. (Unpublished). Percentage of teens who will experience a first birth based on analyses of NCHS Vital Statistics 2013 final birth data. Child Trends. back to top

6 Maddow-Zimet, I., Kost, K., & Finn, S. (2020). Pregnancies, Births and Abortions in the United States, 1973–2016: National and State Trends by Age. Guttmacher Institute. https://www.guttmacher.org/report/pregnancies-births-abortions-in-united-states-1973-2016# back to top

7 Kost, K., Maddow-Zimet, I., & Arpaia, A. (2017). Pregnancies, births and abortions among adolescents and young women in the United States, 2013: National and state trends by age, race and ethnicity. Guttmacher Institute. https://www.guttmacher.org/sites/default/files/report_pdf/us-adolescent-pregnancy-trends-2013.pdf - PDF back to top

8 Santelli, J. S., Lindberg, L. D., Finer, L. B., & Singh, S. (2007). Explaining recent declines in adolescent pregnancy in the United States: The contribution of abstinence and improved contraceptive use. American Journal of Public Health, 97(1), 150-156. https://doi.org/10.2105/AJPH.2006.089169 back to top

9 Kirby, D., & Lepore, G. (2007). Sexual risk and protective factors: Factors affecting teen sexual behavior, pregnancy, childbearing and sexually transmitted disease. ETR Associates. http://recapp.etr.org/recapp/documents/theories/RiskProtectiveFactors200712.pdf - PDF back to top

10 Martinez, G., Copen, C. E., & Abma, J. C. (2011). Teenagers in the United States: Sexual activity, contraceptive use, and childbearing, 2006-2010 National Survey of Family Growth (Vital and Health Statistics Series 10, Number 31). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/series/sr_23/sr23_031.pdf - PDF back to top

11 Dehlendorf, C., Rodriguez, M. I., Levy, K., Borrero, S., & Steinauer, J. (2010). Disparities in family planning. American journal of obstetrics and gynecology202(3), 214–220. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ajog.2009.08.022 back to top