Teen Births

Publication Date:

Nov 03, 2018

Key facts about teen births

• Among female teens ages 15 to 19, birth rates have declined from 1960 to 2016 from 89 births per 1,000 population in 1960, to 20 births per 1,000 in 2016.
• In 2016, the birth rate for Hispanic teens (32 per 1,000) was slightly higher than the rate for non-Hispanic black teens (29 per 1,000), and more than twice the rate of non-Hispanic white teens (14 per 1,000). Rates for other races/ethnicities are reported in the text.
• In 2016, 89 percent of births to teens ages 15 and 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 women ages 15 to 19), then remained steady until 1987. From 1987to 1991, teen birth rates increased from 50 per 1,000 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 teen birth rates increased in 2006, data for later years show a resumption of the downward trend, and a historic low of 20 per 1,000 for 2016  (Appendix 1).

Long-term declines for non-Hispanic black teens have been particularly steep, with rates falling from 118 per 1,000 in 1991 to 29 per 1,000 in 2016, after 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 32 births per 1,000 in 2016 (Appendix 1).

After a steady increase from 1960 to 1990, rates for younger females (ages 10-14) also decreased relatively steadily in the past two decades, from 1.4 per 1,000 in 1991 to 0.2 per 1,000 in 2016. The long-term downward trends reflect the increasing tendency of teenagers to delay sex and, if sexually active, to use contraception more carefully. 1

Differences by race and Hispanic origin2

Prior to 1995, U.S. birth rates were highest among non-Hispanic black teens. However, Hispanic teens have had the highest birth rates since 1995, 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 and are now only slightly above rates for non-Hispanic black teens.

In 2016, birth rates were highest among Hispanic teens (32 per 1,000), followed by non-Hispanic black teens (29 per 1,000 ), American Indian and Alaska Native teens (24 per 1,000), non-Hispanic white teens (14 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 similar birth rates 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).

Although there has been great progress since 2007, the continued high birth rates among Hispanic and non-Hispanic black teens are of concern. Sexually experienced Hispanic teens are less likely than other teens to talk to their partner about contraception before sex and to use contraception. Additionally, they are less likely to see having a teen birth as a negative event.3

Differences by age

Birth rates for older teens are much higher than for younger teens. In 2016, there were 38 births per 1,000 females ages 18 to 19, compared with 9 births per 1,000 females ages 15 to 17 and 0.2 births per 1,000 females ages 10 to 14. Births rates among older teens have been more variable than among younger teens: most of the decline in birth rates from 1960 to 1976 was from this older group, as was most of the increase from 1986 to 1991 (Appendix 1).

Differences by marital status

Nearly all teens that give birth–89 percent of births to teens ages 15 to 19, in 2016–are unmarried. Since 1990, when unmarried women accounted for 67 percent of teen births, this percentage has risen in every year but one (1995). Also, through 2014 (the latest year for which data are available), the gap between younger and older teens in the percentage of births where the mother is unmarried has been shrinking. In 2014, there was a 10-percentage-point difference between the percentage of unmarried births to 15- to 17-year-olds and 18- to 19-year-olds (96 and 86 percent, respectively), compared with a 17-percentage-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 1970-2016: Hamilton, B. E, Martin, J. A., Osterman, M. J. K., Curtin, S.C., & Matthews, T. J. (2002-2018). Births: Final data for 2000-2016. National Vital Statistics Reports. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/products/nvsr.htm.
  • Marital data for 2002-2010: Child Trends’ calculations using U.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: U.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: 1960-2016

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 ages 15 to 19 in the population. If the result of this calculation were .044, this would be reported as 44 births per 1,000.

Citation

Child Trends. (2018). Teen birth. 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. Hispanic teens may be of any race.
3. 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.