Although many may think teens today are wild and out of control, new data shows that the teen birth rate has fallen to its lowest point in almost 70 years.
While birth rates for all women, except those over 40, have continued to drop, teen birth rates fell to 39 births per 1,000 girls, ages 15 through 19. According to government records, teen rates fell nearly six percent from 2008, and is the lowest rate officials have seen since they began keeping records in 1940.
Apparently, the recession has hit everyone hard, even teens. Health officials attribute the lower rates, in part, to bad economic conditions.
“I’m not suggesting that teens are examining futures of 401(k)s or how the market is doing,” said Sarah Brown, chief executive of the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy. “But I think they are living in families that experience that stress. They are living next door to families that lost their jobs. . . . The recession has touched us all.”
Another surprising factor in the declining teen birth rate? MTV’s popular reality show, “16 and Pregnant.” While the report by the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy found that parental influence was the most-cited factor by teens when avoiding pregnancy, the MTV show was also credited. 82 percent of the teens surveyed by the group found that the show helped them to gain a better understanding of what it took to be a teen parent and why they should avoid it.
About 4.1 million babies were born in 2009, down nearly three percent. According to The Associated Press, “A decline in immigration to the United States, blamed on the weak job market, is another factor cited for the lower birth rate. A large proportion of immigrants are Hispanic, and Hispanics accounted for nearly 1 in 4 births in 2009. The birth rate among Hispanic teens is the highest of any ethnic group with 70 births per 1,000 girls in 2009. However, that rate, too, was down from the previous year.”
While the lower birth rate numbers are great, the 2009 data is not cause for celebration just yet. The teen birth rate in the United States continues to be much higher than 16 other developed countries, according to a 2007 United Nations report. Despite this, advocates are cautiously optimistic that the things they’ve been doing to lower the teen birth rate are working.