Pregnancy and Birth Rates for Hispanic Teens Are Declining, But Still High

Washington, DC – While teen pregnancy and birth rates for all U.S. teens have declined dramatically in recent years, this decline has been slower for Hispanic teens. In fact, these rates remain higher for Hispanics than for the population as a whole.


In light of these trends, Child Trends’ newest research brief – Hispanic Teen Pregnancy and Birth Rates: Looking Behind the Numbers – brings together new analyses and recent statistics from several sources to examine the sexual, contraceptive, and relationship behaviors of Hispanic teens.  “This kind of information can be helpful to providers of teen pregnancy prevention programs as they seek to target these programs more effectively to Hispanic teens,” says Suzanne Ryan, Ph.D., lead author of the brief.    


“Teen pregnancy and birth rates within the Hispanic population – although they have dropped – remain a cause for concern, given research showing the negative consequences early pregnancy and childbearing can have for both teen mothers and their children,” adds Ryan. “For example, teen mothers are more likely to drop out of high school, to struggle economically, and to spend their adult years as single parents than those who delay childbearing until they are older. And, compared with the children of  older mothers, the children of teen mothers are more likely to face a host of difficulties  –  from being of  low-birthweight as a baby to getting into trouble as a  teenager.”



Findings from the study include:


Pregnancies and births

  • The Hispanic teen pregnancy rate in 2000 (the latest year for which data are available) was 137.9 pregnancies per 1,000 teen females aged 15 to 19, compared with 83.6 for the overall U.S. teen population.  The Hispanic teen birth rate in 2003 was 82.2 births per 1,000 teen females aged 15 to 19, compared with 41.7 for the overall U.S. teen population.
  • Between 1990 and 2000, the pregnancy rate declined by 29 percent for all teens, but only declined by 15 percent for Hispanic teens.  The birth rate for all teens has declined by 33 percent since 1991 (the most recent peak in the teen birth rate), but the birth rate for Hispanic teens has declined by only 21 percent.
  • Before their twentieth birthday, an estimated 24 percent of Hispanic young women will have given birth to at least one child, compared with 13 percent of U.S. young women overall.
  • In 2000, less than one-quarter (22 percent) of Hispanic teen pregnancies ended in abortion, compared with almost 3 in 10 (29 percent) pregnancies among all teens.  The combination of higher pregnancy rates and a lower percentage of abortions accounts for the higher birth rates among Hispanic teens. 
  • In 2002, only 46 percent of never-married Hispanic teen females said they would be “very upset” if they got pregnant, compared with 60 percent of all never-married teen females who held this view.

 Sex, relationships, and contraception


  • In 2002, 47 percent of never-married Hispanic teens reported that they were sexually experienced (had ever had sex), but only 34 percent said they were sexually active (had sex at least once in the previous three months).  The percentages for all U.S. teens were comparable: 46 percent were sexually experienced and 33 percent were sexually active. 
  • Hispanic teens in grade 7 through 12 reported that they talked about contraception with their partners before having sex in less than one-half (46 percent) of their relationships, compared with more than one-half (52 percent ) of the time across all sexual relationships among U.S. teens.
  • In 1995-1996, Hispanic teens in grades 7 through 12 reported they used no contraceptive method at all in 31 percent of their sexual relationships, while among teens of all racial and ethnic backgrounds, contraception was not used at all in 24 percent of sexual relationships. More than one-half of Hispanic teens (55 percent) and all teens (58 percent) used contraception consistently, that is, they relied on some form of contraception every time they had sex and within each of their sexual relationships.
  • For Hispanic high school teens, condom use during the most recent sexual experience has increased significantly in the past decade, from 37 percent in 1991 to 57 percent in 2003. However, condom use remained somewhat less prevalent among Hispanic high school teens than among high school teens overall (57 percent versus 63 percent, respectively).
  • Hispanic teen females are substantially less likely than teen females in the overall population to use birth control pills.  In 2003, only 12 percent of Hispanic high school females reported using birth control pills during their most recent sexual experience, compared with 21 percent of high school females overall. 
  • The number one reason Hispanic teens who had never had sex give for remaining virgins is that they did not want to get themselves or their partners pregnant.  In 2002, this was true for 32 percent of virgin Hispanic teens surveyed, compared with 22 percent for all teens surveyed. 

The brief also suggests approaches that may be effective in reducing the relatively high risks of teen pregnancy and childbearing among Hispanics, the fastest-growing population in the U.S.




Child Trends, founded in 1979, is a nonprofit, nonpartisan research center dedicated to improving the lives of children and their families by conducting research and providing science-based information to the public and decision-makers.