Teenage pregnancy in the United States

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Teenage pregnancy in the United States relates to girls under the age of 20 who become pregnant. Most occurrences take place out-of-wedlock.[1]

An anti-teenage pregnancy poster


According to the Centers for Disease Control, more than 4 out of 5, or 80%, of teenage pregnancies are unintended.[2] In 2010, of the majority of pregnancies to adolescent females in the United States, an estimated 60% ended in live birth, 15% ended in miscarriage, and 30% in abortion.[3] In 2012, there were 104,700 maternal hospital stays for pregnant teens; the number of hospital stays for teen pregnancies decreased by 47 percent from 2000-2012.[4]

In 2014, 249,078 babies were born to women aged 15 – 19 years old. This is a birth rate of 24.2 per 1000 women.[5] Pregnancies are much less common among girls younger than 15. In 2008, 6.6 pregnancies occurred per 1,000 teens aged 13–14. In other words, fewer than 1% of teens younger than 15 became pregnant in 2008.[6] Pregnant teenagers tend to gain less weight than older mothers, due to the fact that they are still growing and fighting for nutrients with the baby during the pregnancy.[7]

Teen pregnancy is defined as pregnancies in women under the age of 20, regardless of marital status. Teen pregnancy rates have dropped 9% since 2013.[5] Between 1991 and 2014, teenage birth rates dropped 61% nationwide.[8]

Teenage birth rates, as opposed to pregnancies, peaked in 1991, when there were 61.8 births per 1,000 teens, and the rate dropped in 17 of the 19 years that followed.[9] 3 in 10 American girls will get pregnant before age 20. That is almost 750,000 pregnancies a year.[10] Nearly 89% of teenage births occur outside of marriage.[3] Of all women, 16% will be teen mothers.[11] The largest increases in unintended pregnancies were found among women who were cohabiting, had lower education, and low income.[2]

By ethnicity[edit]

Black, Latina, and American Indian youth experience the highest rates of teenage pregnancy and childbirth.[5] Studies show that Asians (23 per 1,000) and whites (43 per 1,000)[6] and [11] have lower rates of pregnancy before the age of 20. The pregnancy rate among black teens decreased 48% between 1990 and 2008, more than the overall U.S. teen pregnancy rate declined during the same period (42%).[6] The teen birth rate decline broken down by race in 2014 from 2013:[5]

  • 7% for Non-Hispanic Whites
  • 11% for Non-Hispanic Blacks
  • 9% Hispanic
  • 11% Asian/Pacific Islander
  • 12% American Indian/Alaska Natives

By region[edit]

Teen birth rates in the United States are higher than that of many other developed countries.[3]

In 2013, the lowest birth rates were reported in the Northeast, while the highest rates were located in the south east.[3] For example, a 2001 study by UNICEF found that the US teenage birth rate was the highest among 28 OECD nations in the review;[12] in a 1999 comparison by the Guttmacher Institute, U.S. teen pregnancy and teen birth rates were the second-highest among the 46 developed countries studied.[13][14] In 2002, the U.S. was rated 84th out of 170 World Health Organization member countries based on teenage fertility rate.[15]

Sexually active teens in the US are less likely to use any contraceptive method, including condoms, and are especially less likely to use highly effective hormonal methods, primarily the pill, than their peers in other countries. Among adolescents who had sex in the past month: almost 25% of males and 40% of females did not use a condom.[3] The research also found that US teens who become pregnant are less likely to choose abortion. This could be due to the fact that the resources for abortions are not readily available. 75% of women in rural areas have to drive at least 50 miles for abortion services.[16] 87% of United States counties do not have an abortion provider.[16]

Birth and abortion rates of women and girls ages 15-19, 2010 [17][edit]

US State Pregnancy rate Birthrate Abortion rate % aborted
Alabama 62 44 9 17
Alaska 64 38 17 30
Arizona 60 42 9 18
Arkansas 73 53 9 14
California 59 32 19 38
Colorado 50 30 10 20
Connecticut 44 19 20 52
Delaware 67 31 28 47
Washington, D.C. 90 45 32 41
Florida 60 32 19 38
Georgia 64 42 13 24
Hawaii 65 33 23 42
Idaho 47 33 7 17
Illinois 57 33 15 32
Indiana 53 38 7 16
Iowa 44 29 9 23
Kansas 53 39 5 12
Kentucky 62 46 6 12
Louisiana 69 48 10 18
Maine 37 22 10 31
Maryland 57 27 22 45
Massachusetts 37 17 14 46
Michigan 52 30 14 32
Minnesota 36 23 8 25
Mississippi 76 55 9 14
Missouri 54 37 9 19
Montana 53 35 10 21
Nebraska 43 31 5 14
Nevada 68 39 20 34
New Hampshire 28 16 8 35
New Jersey 51 20 24 55
New Mexico 80 53 15 22
New York 63 23 32 58
North Carolina 59 38 12 24
North Dakota 42 29 6 18
Ohio 54 34 12 25
Oklahoma 69 50 8 13
Oregon 47 28 12 29
Pennsylvania 49 27 15 35
Rhode Island 44 22 16 41
South Carolina 65 43 13 23
South Dakota 47 35 4 11
Tennessee 62 43 9 18
Texas 73 52 9 15
Utah 38 28 4 13
Vermont 32 18 9 34
Virginia 48 27 14 33
Washington 49 27 16 37
West Virginia 64 45 9 17
Wisconsin 39 26 7 21
Wyoming 56 39 8 17

Parenting as a teenager[edit]

There were 334,000 births among girls aged 19 or younger in 2011, representing 8% of all U.S. births.[6] Births to teen mothers peaked in 1991 at 62 births per 1,000 girls. This rate was halved by 2011 when there were 31 births per 1,000 girls.[6] About 25% of teenage mothers have a second child within 24 months of the first birth.[18]

Teenagers are becoming better contracepters because they realize that their sexual partners may not be a reliable coparent. Marriage rates within the past 25 years with teenagers has drastically declined because of this realization. Since contraception has become more obtainable for teenagers, they are preventing unwanted pregnancies.[19]

For every 1,000 black boys in the United States, 29 of them are fathers, compared to 14 per 1,000 white boys.[6] The rate of teen fatherhood declined 36% between 1991 and 2010, from 25 to 16 per 1,000 males aged 15–19. This decline was more substantial among blacks than among whites (50% vs. 26%) and about half of the rate among teen girls.[6] Nearly 80% of teenage fathers do not marry the teenage mother of their child.[20] Teenage fathers have 10-15% lower annual earnings than teenagers who do not father children.[20]

Most female teens report that they would be very upset (58%) or a little upset (29%) if they got pregnant, while the remaining 13% report that they would be a little or very pleased.[6] Most male teens report that they would be very upset (47%) or a little upset (34%) if they got someone pregnant, while the remaining 18% report that they would be a little or very pleased.[6]

Parenting as a teenager has detrimental effects on the children. Children born to teenage mothers are more likely to: be born prematurely, 50% more likely to repeat a grade, live in poverty, and suffer higher rates of abuse.[18] The sons of teen mothers are 13% more likely to end up incarcerated, and the daughters of teenage mothers are 22% more likely to become teenage mothers.[18] More than 25% of teen mothers live in poverty during their 20’s.[20]

Teenage Pregnancy imposes lasting hardships on two generations: mother and child. Evidence from U.S. studies show that women who bear their first child at an early age bear more children rapidly and have more unwanted and out-of-wedlock births. Children of teenage parents are more likely to have lower academic achievements and tend to repeat the cycle of early marriage and early childbearing of their parents.[21]

Since the Great Recession, young people take three times longer to gain financial independence than it took for young people three decades ago. It is much harder for teenage parents to be able to support a family compared to the past due to the competitive work environment.[19]

Supporting teenage parents[edit]

More than 50% of teenage mothers do not graduate from high school.[10] Some high schools in the United States offer a program for pregnant and parenting teens to continue their education. These are sometimes referred to as "Teen Parent Programs".[22]

There are several benefits to these school based programs, the number one benefit being teens are able to continue their high school education. Studies have shown that when teen parents stay in school after being pregnant, they have a better chance of graduating high school.[23] Less than 2% of teen moms earn a college degree by age 30.[10] Many of these programs offer on-campus childcare. Some even require the pregnant and parenting teens to attend parenting classes or practicum classes. The parenting classes offer a place for these young parents to learn about the basic needs of a child. While, the practicum classes offer a hands on experience caring for the children in the childcare center.

Statistics show that less than 10% of teen parents earn their high school diploma by their eighteenth birthday.[24] These programs are trying to change those statistics. Currently (2016), San Diego County has 7 high schools that offer these teen parent programs.


The United States has the highest rates of teenage pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases in developed countries.[25] The two primary reasons given by teenagers for not using protection is that the chance of becoming pregnant is small, and the failure to anticipate intercourse.[26] Teen pregnancies can be prevented. The best method of reducing the consequences of teenage parenthood is by providing reproductive health services to prevent teenagers from becoming pregnant in the first place.[19] Prevention can not only be beneficial on a micro level but it is also beneficial on a more macro scale. Nationally, teen pregnancies cost tax payers an average of $9.4 billion each year.[5] These costs are associated with health care, foster care, criminal justice, public assistance and lost tax revenue.[18] Teen Pregnancies can help be prevented by increasing access to contraceptives and increasing correct and consistent use of contraceptives,[2] more parental involvement, and more education about sexual intercourse. The best method of preventing teenage pregnancy is by integrating sex and STD education into the science curriculum as well as addressing the effects of teenage pregnancies in social studies for middle and high school students.

Comparison to other countries[edit]

After gathering data from each of the following countries including: Canada, France, Great Britain, Sweden and of course the United States. It is shown that there are large differences in adolescent pregnancy rates. Showing that the United States not only has the highest number of teen pregnancies but also the highest number of STD’s compared to the other four countries. By the late 1990s in France and Sweden, pregnancies were 20 per 1,000 women at ages 15–19. In Canada and Great Britain the levels were twice that. Leaving the United States with 4 times the rate a whopping 84 per 1,000 women would be pregnant.The likelihood of abortions in teenagers across the four countries differ and exclude miscarriages. In the U.S. abortion rates for 15–19 years are 35% while in Sweden it was 69%. Leaving Great Britain with 39%, Canada with 46% and France with 51%.[27]

It seems that the U.S. rate of teen pregnancy is higher because in America a majority of sexual education classes teach abstinence[citation needed]. As a result, these adolescents are not fully aware of how to respond to sexual activity if it comes their way. The mentality of some education systems in America have the idea that if they don’t teach safe sex, adolescents will refrain from sex[citation needed]. As the data concludes from above that compared to the other developed countries America is four times as likely to have a teen pregnancy. Yet the U.S. also uses less contraceptive, has more abortions[citation needed] and more prevalence of sexually transmitted diseases than the other developed countries. In America all states are involved in sex education, but each state has differences in what they teach. Some states choose to go in detail others just cover the bases. Which include 39 states that require “some” education related to sexuality. There are 21 states that are required by law to teach sexuality and STD education. 17 states only require the teaching of STDs and not sexual education. There are also 11 states that have no requirement and leave it up to that state to decide whether or not they teach sex education.[28]

Modern decline[edit]

Although, there is a noticeable decline in U.S. teen pregnancy the current rate is still 2-4 times more than in the other four countries. The biggest difference in the rate of pregnancies in the United States compared to the other countries is that in America there is a very high unintended pregnancy rate. This unintended pregnancy rate is higher than the total teenage pregnancy rate in all of the four countries. [29]

In 2010 there was a rate of 57 pregnancies per 1,000 women aged 15–19. Most of those women reported that it was an unplanned pregnancy. This shows a 15% drop in pregnancies from 2008 to 2010. There is a huge decline in adolescent pregnancy for the nation as a whole. The cause of these declines are from abstaining from sex or better use of contraceptives.[30] Birth rates among younger teens ages 15–17 have also fallen faster – dropping by 50%, compared with a 39% decline among older teens ages 18 and 19.[31] Researchers have concluded that these declines stem from improvement in use of contraceptives.[30]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "An Analysis of Out-Of-Wedlock Births in the United States". The Brookings Institution. 1996-08-01. Retrieved 2016-03-08. 
  2. ^ a b c "Unintended Pregnancy Prevention | Unintended Pregnancy | Reproductive Health | CDC". www.cdc.gov. Retrieved 2016-04-20. 
  3. ^ a b c d e "The Office of Adolescent Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services". Office of Adolescent Health. Retrieved 2016-04-20. 
  4. ^ Witt WP, Wiess AJ, Elixhauser A (December 2014). "Overview of Hospital Stays for Children in the United States, 2012". HCUP Statistical Brief #186. Rockville, MD: Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. 
  5. ^ a b c d e "About Teen Pregnancy | Teen Pregnancy | Reproductive Health | CDC". www.cdc.gov. Retrieved 2016-04-20. 
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h i "www.guttmacher.org" (PDF). Guttmacher Institute. June 2013. Retrieved August 14, 2013. 
  7. ^ Chen, X.-K.; Wen, S. W.; Fleming, N.; Demissie, K.; Rhoads, G. G.; Walker, M. (2007-04-01). "Teenage pregnancy and adverse birth outcomes: a large population based retrospective cohort study". International Journal of Epidemiology. 36 (2): 368–373. doi:10.1093/ije/dyl284. ISSN 0300-5771. 
  8. ^ "Data". thenationalcampaign.org. Retrieved 2016-04-20. 
  9. ^ Timothy W. Martin (2011). "Birth Rate Continues to Slide Among Teens". Wall Street Journal. Retrieved March 7, 2012. 
  10. ^ a b c "11 Facts About Teen Pregnancy | DoSomething.org | Volunteer for Social Change". www.dosomething.org. Retrieved 2016-04-20. 
  11. ^ a b "Policy Brief: Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Teen Pregnancy" (PDF). The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy. July 2008. Archived (PDF) from the original on October 29, 2008. Retrieved October 13, 2008. 
  12. ^ UNICEF. (2001). "A League Table of Teenage Births in Rich Nations" (PDF).  (888 KB). Retrieved July 7, 2006.
  13. ^ Indicator: Births per 1000 women (15–19 ys) – 2002 UNFPA, State of World Population 2003. Retrieved January 22, 2007.
  14. ^ "Core Health Indicators". World Health Organization. 2008. Retrieved March 7, 2012. 
  15. ^ a b "Teen Moms + Abortion: Stats You Should Know". www.itsyoursexlife.com. Retrieved 2016-04-20. 
  16. ^ Kost, Kathryn; Henshaw, Stanley (2014), U.S. Teenage Pregnancies, Births and Abortions, 2010:National and State Trends by Age, Race and Ethnicity (PDF), retrieved June 8, 2015 
  17. ^ a b c d "Teenage Births: Outcomes for Young Parents and Their Children" (PDF). December 2008. Retrieved 2016-04-19. 
  18. ^ a b c Furstenberg, Frank (2016-11-01). "Reconsidering Teenage Pregnancy and Parenthood". Societies. 6 (4): 33. doi:10.3390/soc6040033. 
  19. ^ a b c "Statistics on Teenage Pregnancy" (PDF). Retrieved 2016-04-19. 
  20. ^ Myers, Wendy S. "Babies Having Babies. (Cover Story)." Women In Business 42.4 (1990): 18-20. Academic Search Complete. Web. 25 Oct. 2016.
  21. ^ Martinez, D. (February 7, 2009). "Teen Parenting Program aims to keep young mothers in school". Valley Morning Star. Retrieved 29 April 2016. Saenz said the program, which follows a TEA curriculum, reaches out to girls and boys from middle school to high school who are facing a pregnancy to educate them about the parenting process, resources, federal programs and continuing their education. 
  22. ^ Sadler, L. S., Swartz, M. K., Ryan-Krause, P., Seitz, V., Meadows-Oliver, M., Grey, M., & Clemmens, D. A. (2007). Promising Outcomes in Teen Mothers Enrolled in a School-Based Parent Support Program and Child Care Center. Journal of School Health, 77(3), 121-130. doi:10.1111/j.1746-1561.2007.00181.x
  23. ^ Van Pelt, Jennifer (March–April 2012). "Keep Teen Mom's In School- A School Social Work". Social Work Today. Retrieved March 4, 2016. 
  24. ^ Stanger-Hall, Kathrin F.; Hall, David W. (2011-10-14). "Abstinence-Only Education and Teen Pregnancy Rates: Why We Need Comprehensive Sex Education in the U.S". PLOS ONE. 6 (10): e24658. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0024658. ISSN 1932-6203. PMC 3194801Freely accessible. PMID 22022362. 
  25. ^ Trussell, James (Spring 2017). "Teenage Pregnancy in the United States". Family Planning Perspectives. 6. 
  26. ^ Darroch, Jacqueline; Singh, Susheela; Frost, Jennifer. "Differences in Teenage Pregnancy Rates Among Five Developed Countries: The Roles of Sexual Activity and Contraceptive Use". 
  27. ^ "Sex and HIV Education". 
  28. ^ Darroch, Jacqueline; Singh, Susheela; Frost, Jennifer. "Differences in Teenage Pregnancy Rates Among Five Developed Countries: The Roles of Sexual Activity and Contraceptive Use". Guttmacher Institute. 
  29. ^ a b Boonstra, Heather. "What Is Behind the Declines in Teen Pregnancy Rates?". Guttmacher Institute. 
  30. ^ Patten, Eileen; Gretchen Livingston (29 April 2016). "Why is the teen birth rate falling?". Pew Research Center. Retrieved 3 May 2017. 

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