- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 25, 2001

The teen birthrate reached another record low in 2000, continuing a trend that began in 1991, the federal government said yesterday.
The birthrate for teens fell to 48.7 births per 1,000 teens ages 15 to 19, the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) said in its preliminary report on births in 2000. This represents a nearly 22 percent decline from 1991, when there were 62.1 births per 1,000 teens.
The decline is "very encouraging news," Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy G. Thompson said yesterday.
At the same time, the number of babies born to single women reached a new record high in 2000, the NCHS reported.
In 1999, 1,308,560 babies were born out of wedlock. In 2000, the number of out-of-wedlock births jumped to 1,345,917. The portion of all births to unwed women was 33.1 percent in 2000, a slight uptick from 33 percent in 1999.
Analysts have credited the lowering of teen birthrates to static or declining sexual activity rates, increases in contraceptive use and increases in abstinence education.
The rise in unwed childbearing has been traced to demographic trends, such as the growth in the number of single women of childbearing age, and changes in social mores, such a growing acceptance of single parenthood and cohabitation.
The growth of out-of-wedlock births has been steep and unrelenting for 60 years, according to a NCHS report released last October. With the exception of four years — 1942, 1948, 1995 and 1997 — the number of unwed births has risen every year since 1940, when 89,500 babies were born out of wedlock, the NCHS said in its October report, "Nonmarital Childbearing in the United States, 1940-99."
Other highlights from yesterday's NCHS report on births in 2000:
Total U.S. births reached 4,064,948, a 3 percent increase from 1999 and one of the highest birthrates in a decade.
Birthrates for high school teens fell 4 percent from 1999, compared with 18- and 19-year-olds, whose birthrates fell only 1 percent.
Birthrates for teens ages 15-19 fell in most racial groups, with 32.8 births per 1,000 white teens, 21.8 births per 1,000 Asian teens and 79.2 births per 1,000 black teens. The birthrate rose, however, among Hispanic teens, who had 94.4 births per 1,000 teens in 2000, compared with 93.4 births in 1999.
The proportion of women who began prenatal care in the first trimester of pregnancy — 83.2 percent — was unchanged from 1999. The rate of low birth-weight births — 7.6 percent — was also unchanged.

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