Friday, July 13, 2007

Fewer high school students are having sex these days, and more are using condoms. The teen birth rate has hit a record low.

More young people are finishing high school, too, and more children are being read to, according to the latest government snapshot on the well-being of the nation’s youth. It’s good news all around, analysts said of the report released today.

“The implications for the population are quite positive in terms of their health and their well-being,” said Edward Sondik, director of the National Center for Health Statistics. “The lower figure on teens having sex means the risk of sexually transmitted diseases is lower.”

In 2005, 47 percent of high school students — 4.6 million — reported having had sexual intercourse, down from 54 percent in 1991.

Of those who had sex during a three-month period in 2005, 63 percent — more than 6 million — used condoms. That’s up from 46 percent in 1991.

The teen birth rate, the report said, was 21 per 1,000 young women ages 15-17 in 2005 — an all-time low. It was down from 39 births per 1,000 teens in 1991.

“This is very good news,” said Mr. Sondik. “Young teen mothers and their babies are at a greater risk of both immediate and long-term difficulties.”

The report was compiled from statistics and studies at 22 federal agencies, and covered 38 key indicators, including infant mortality, academic achievement rates and the number of children living in poverty.

Other highlights:

c The percentage of children covered by health insurance decreased slightly. In 2005, 89 percent of children had health insurance coverage at some point during the year, down from 90 percent the previous year.

c The percentage of low birthweight infants (born weighing less than 5 pounds, 8 ounces) increased. It was 8.2 percent in 2005, up from 8.1 percent in 2004.

c More youngsters are getting reading time. Sixty percent of children ages 3 to 5 (and not in kindergarten) were read to daily by a family member in 2005, up from 53 percent in 1993.

c The percentage of children who had at least one parent working year round and full-time increased to 78.3 percent in 2005, up from 77.6 percent the previous year.

c More young people are completing high school. In 2005, 88 percent of young adults had finished high school — up from 84 percent in 1980.

The report was released by the Federal Interagency Forum on Child and Family Statistics — a consortium of federal agencies that includes the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, the Census Bureau and the Administration for Children and Families.

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