Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released data from the Natality Data File, National Vital Statistics System showing teen childbearing hitting the lowest levels on record. Obviously, the public information campaign to use condoms is working.
At the same time, increasing numbers of unmarried couples are having babies, giving further proof of the public's general disillusionment with the 20th Century ideals of the institution of marriage. Twenty-seven percent of all births from 2003 and 2010 were to unmarried couples, marking a 300% increase since 1985.
The report's author Gladys Martinez, a demographer in the CDC's Division of Vital Statistics commented :
"It's thought that in births outside of marriage, one parent isn't present. But our data is showing that a large proportion do have two parents, even though [they're] not formally married ... We know that women have been delaying childbirth ... But there is also an increase in the number of older women who have more than one kid, and we would expect that to be even higher if we interviewed even older women."
Another interesting statistic in the report shows that nearly half of all women aged 15 to 44 have never had a child, and the number was slightly lower for men. The average age that women had their first child was 23 and for men 25, although the averages are obviously skewed due to teenage pregnancies, and larger numbers of women choosing to delay giving birth until their late 30s to early 40s. Women in their early 40s had an average of 2.1 children.
The decline in the teen birth rate is good news, with a statistic showing that 60% of women who didn't finish high school were teenage mothers. Youngsters are becoming aware of the pressure that being a mother can put on them and figures also show that only 4% of college graduates had a child in their teens.
In total, US teen birth rates declined 9% from 2009 to 2010, reaching an all time low at 34.3 births per 1000. Looking further back the rate has dropped an encouraging 44% since 1991. Fewer teenagers were born in 2010, since records began in 1946. If the teen birth rates had not declined so dramatically, researchers estimate that there would have been an additional 3.4 million births from 1992 to 2010. The costs associated with teen births are estimated at nearly 11 billion dollars per year.
The rates vary significantly according to state, race and Hispanic origin. Birth rates fell in all ethnic groups, but remain stubbornly high for Hispanics, Non-Hispanic Blacks and Native Americans. The only states not showing a decline were Montana, North Dakota, and West Virginia, although there was not a notable increase either. The lowest number of births per 1,000 were: 15.7 in New Hampshire to the highest: 55.0 in Mississippi, in 2010. The southern states from Arizona across to the Carolinas were in general higher than the northern states, Florida and California.
Researchers note that the use of contraception from the first sexual encounter has increased, while many young couples use both condoms and hormonal methods of contraception in tandem.
Clearly, the public awareness campaign that started in the late 80s with the onset of the HIV problem, combined with a more open attitude, more variety of condom brands, and a much less stigmatized approach to purchasing condoms or taking the pill has been responsible for much of the decline.
Researchers didn't say how abortions in teens might have effected the statistics, which would certainly be a figure required to complete the picture. The author of the 2005 book Freakonomics, links the decline in crime in the early 90s, with the 1973 Roe v. Wadewith supreme court decision, that has since made abortion more widely available. None the less the numbers are encouraging and for once the government could be commended in having created a positive result for the population.
Written by Rupert Shepherd