- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 23, 2013

Plummeting birthrates among all teens — especially Hispanics — has helped bring this vital statistic to record-low levels, says a new federal report.

Between 2007 and 2011, the birthrates of Hispanic teens fell by 40 percent or more in 22 states and the District, said Brady E. Hamilton, a researcher at the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) and author of a report released Thursday.

In addition, blacks and whites also saw declines in their teen birthrates of at least 20 percent in 30 or more states.

These coast-to-coast declines drove the nation’s teen birthrate to its latest record low in 2011, of 31.3 births per 1,000 girls aged 15 to 19, said the NCHS report. It also means that over the last 20 years, the teen birthrate has been virtually cut in half — it peaked at 61.8 births per 1,000 teens in 1991.

The number of teen births has also fallen, from about 520,000 in 1991 to 329,797 in 2011.

The decline is not because teens are aborting more either, as abortion rates have also declined, falling from 24 per 1,000 women aged 15 to 19 in 2000 to 18 abortions per 1,000 teens in 2008, according to the latest data from Guttmacher Institute.

Researchers attribute the decline in teen births to many factors — strong teen-pregnancy prevention messages; more teens delaying sexual intercourse until their later teens or early 20s; and more teens using contraception when they become sexually active and using more effective contraception methods.

The NCHS data show that teen birthrates fell, regardless of “geography, red state, blue state, policy or politics,” said Bill Albert, chief program officer at the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy.

That seems to point to “a real change in cultural norms,” he said.

“I don’t think you make this sort of progress unless teenagers themselves are saying, ‘You know what, on balance, the teen years are not the time to get pregnant and start a family,’” said Mr. Albert.

Teens may “have dozens of reasons” for choosing to think that way, he added, “but I think [a cultural change is] what’s happening here.”

• Cheryl Wetzstein can be reached at cwetzstein@washingtontimes.com.

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