Location Matters: Geographic Variation in Teen Childbearing within Washington, D.C.

Research BriefSexual & Reproductive HealthNov 1 2014

Teen childbearing remains a reality for hundreds of thousands of teenage girls in the United States, despite recent declines in the overall teen birth rate. Nationwide, there are also disparities in the rate of teen births. Hispanic, black, and Native American/Alaska Native teen girls, for example, are far more likely to give birth than are white or Asian/ Pacific Islander teens.i Birth rates vary by location, with teens in rural areas more likely to have a birth than teens in cities, and teens in the southern and southwestern United States more likely than those in the Northeast to give birth.i Even within concentrated geographic areas, there are neighborhoods and communities with especially high teen birth rates, highlighting that location matters for teen pregnancy prevention. Targeted prevention efforts in those communities can help reductions in teen births continue.

For this brief, we set out to determine how birth rates vary within a city, specifically the nation’s capital, and to analyze how addressing the issue of teen pregnancy among the populations most at-risk could reduce teen childbearing for the city overall. This brief describes research findings on teen childbearing in Washington, D.C. in recent years. Specifically, we analyzed teen birth and population data from 2010 to 2012 to estimate the percentage of female teens currently living in the District who will have a birth before age 20. We studied teen childbearing by ward (an administrative jurisdiction within the city), with an emphasis on Wards 7 and 8, which have disproportionately high levels of teen births compared to other wards. We compare the District to demographically-similar cities, states that are geographically close, and the United States as a whole. We also describe ward-level characteristics that may provide context for high teen births in Wards 7 and 8.