Teen Births

Publication Date:

May 24, 2019

Key facts about teen births

  • Among female teens ages 15 to 19, birth rates have declined markedly: from 89 births per 1,000 population in 1960, to 19 births per 1,000 in 2017.
  • In 2017, the birth rate for Hispanic teens (29 per 1,000) was slightly higher than the rate for non-Hispanic black teens (28 per 1,000), and more than twice the rate for non-Hispanic white teens (13 per 1,000). Rates for other races are reported in the text.
  • In 2017, 89 percent of births to teens ages 15 to 19 occurred to unmarried women, an increase from 67 percent in 1990.

Trends in teen birth

Teen birth rates declined from 1960 to 1978 (from 89 to 52 births per 1,000 females ages 15 to 19), then remained steady through 1986. From 1987 to 1991, teen birth rates increased from 50 to 62 per 1,000, a nearly 25 percent rise in seven years. However, from 1991 to 2005, birth rates declined by more than a third, from 62 to 40 per 1,000 women. Although rates increased in 2006, data for later years show a resumption of the downward trend, and a historic low of 19 per 1,000 for 2017 (Appendix 1).

After a steady increase from 1960 to 1990, rates for younger females (ages 10-14) also decreased in the past two-and-a-half decades, from 1.4 per 1,000 in 1991 to 0.2 per 1,000 in 2017.Long-term declines in birth rates for non-Hispanic black teens have been particularly steep, with rates falling from 118 per 1,000 in 1991 to 28 per 1,000 in 2017, except for a slight rise in 2006-07. Declines in birth rates among Hispanic teens have been nearly as sharp, from 105 births per 1,000 women ages 15 to 19 in 1991, to 29 births per 1,000 in 2017 (Appendix 1).

The long-term downward trends may reflect that teenagers are increasingly likely to delay sex and, if sexually active, to use contraception more carefully.[1]

Differences by race and Hispanic origin*

Birth rates among teens reflect a number of factors, including cultural background, opportunities for employment or higher education, and the collective experience of racism or other discrimination. Prior to 1995, U.S. birth rates were highest among non-Hispanic black teens. Since 1995, however, Hispanic teens have had the highest rates, and, until 2006, declines among this group were generally slower than among non-Hispanic black teens. Since 2007, however, Hispanic teen birth rates have declined substantially, by over 60 percent in the past decade; in recent years, these rates were only slightly above rates for non-Hispanic black teens.

In 2017, birth rates were highest among Hispanic teens (29 per 1,000), followed by non-Hispanic black teens (28 per 1,000), American Indian and Alaska Native teens (22 per 1,000), non-Hispanic white teens (13 per 1,000), and Asian or Pacific Islander teens (7 per 1,000). In 2015 (the latest year for which data are available), Hispanic teens of Mexican origin had birth rates similar to those for teens of Puerto Rican origin (32 and 31 per 1,000, respectively), and both were higher than the rate for Cuban teens (15 per 1,000).

Despite their decline since 2007, the continued relatively high birth rates among Hispanic and non-Hispanic black teens may be of concern. Sexually experienced Hispanic teens are less likely than other teens to talk to their partner about contraception before sex and are less likely to use contraception. Additionally, they are less likely to regard having a teen birth as a negative event.[2]

Differences by age

Birth rates for older teens are much higher than for younger teens. In 2017, there were 35 births per 1,000 females ages 18 to 19, compared with 8 births per 1,000 females ages 15 to 17 and 0.2 births per 1,000 females ages 10 to 14. Births rates have been more variable among older teens than among younger teens: most of the decline in birth rates from 1960 to 1976 was in the older group, as was most of the increase from 1986 to 1991 (Appendix 1).

Differences by marital status

Nearly all teens who give birth are unmarried; in 2017, 89 percent of teens ages 15 to 19 who gave birth were unmarried. Since 1990, when unmarried women accounted for 67 percent of teen births, this percentage has risen in every year but one (1995). Also, the gap between younger and older teens in this percentage has been shrinking. In 2017, there was a 10-point difference between 15- to 17-year-olds and 18- to 19-year-olds in the percentage of unmarried births (97 and 87 percent, respectively), compared with a 17-point difference in 1990 (78 and 61 percent, respectively; Appendix 1).

Other estimates

State and local estimates

International estimates

Data and appendices

Data source

  • Data for 1970-2017: Hamilton, B. E, Martin, J. A., Osterman, M. J. K., Curtin, S.C., & Matthews, T. J. (2002-2018). Births: Final data for 2000-2017. National Vital Statistics Reports. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/products/nvsr.htm.
  • Marital data for 2002-2010: Child Trends’ calculations using S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Health Statistics. VitalStats [Data tool]. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data_access/vitalstatsonline.htm.
  • Marital and birth order data for 1990-2001: Hamilton, B. E., Sutton, P. D., & Ventura, S. J. (2003). Revised birth and fertility rates for the 1990s and new rates for Hispanic populations, 2000 and 2001: United States. National Vital Statistics Reports, 51(12). Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nvsr/nvsr51/nvsr51_12.pdf.
  • Data for 1960 and for white non-Hispanic and Hispanic birth rates for 1980: S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Health Statistics. (2010). Health, United States, 2009: with special feature on medical technology [Table 4]. Hyattsville, MD: Author. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/hus/hus09.pdf.

Raw data source

National Vital Statistics System birth data.

http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/births.htm

Appendices

Appendix 1. Birth Rates (per 1,000 Population) for Females, Ages 10 to 19: 1960-2017

Background

Definition

Birth rates are calculated by dividing the number of births by the number of persons in the relevant population and expressing the result as births per thousand. For example, among adolescent females ages 15 to 19, the birth rate is calculated by dividing the number of births to females, ages 15 to 19, by the number of females of this age in the population. If the result of this calculation were .044, this would be reported as 44 births per 1,000.

Citation

Child Trends. (2019). Teen births. Retrieved from https://www.childtrends.org/indicators/teen-births. 

Endnotes

[1] Albert, B., Lippman, L., Franzetta, K., Ikramullah, E., Keith, J. D., et al. (2005). Freeze frame: A snapshot of America’s teens. Washington, DC: The National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy. Retrieved from http://www.childtrends.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/Child_Trends-2005_09_01_ES_FreezeFrame.pdf.

[2] Ryan, S., Franzetta, K., & Manlove, J. (2005). Hispanic teen pregnancy and birth rates: Looking behind the numbers. Bethesda, MD: Child Trends. Retrieved from http://ncfy.acf.hhs.gov/library/2005/hispanic-teen-pregnancy-and-birth-rates-looking-behind-numbers.