WASHINGTON --The teen birth rate in the United States declined 6% in 2009 and is now at a record low, according to new data released today by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's National Center for Health Statistics. Rates declined among older and younger teens and among all racial and ethnic groups. For example, the birth rate among Hispanic teens declined 10% in 2009 and is now at a record low.
"Good news just in time for the holidays – a steep decline in teen births," said Sarah Brown, CEO of The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy. "It is now apparent that the increase in the teen birth rate noted in 2007 and 2008 was only a hiccup – a blip – in the longer term, two-decade decline in teen births. We now are, thankfully, back on track. The credit and praise goes to teens themselves for making better decisions about their lives today and their plans for the future."
Brown continued, "Still, the Grinch among us recognizes that what goes down can go back up again. Even when the news is good, it is essential that parents, practitioners, policymakers, and really anyone who cares about teenagers remember that the U.S. still has the highest rates of teen pregnancy and births among comparable countries and that we all need to continue helping teens postpone their families until they are older, through school, and in stable, committed relationships."
A new public opinion survey released today by The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy provides some important context for the new birth data. Two of the toplines from With One Voice 2010, a nationally representative telephone survey of 1,008 young people (aged 12-19) and 1,000 adults (age 20 and older), are:
Teens (46%) say parents most influence their decisions about sex. By comparison, only 20% say friends most influence their decisions.
Although 78% of teens say they have all the information they need to avoid an unplanned pregnancy, one-third (34%) agree "it doesn't matter whether you use birth control or not, when it is your time to get pregnant, it will happen," and half (49%) admit that they know "little or nothing" about condoms and how to use them.
Other findings from the survey of teens and adults include:
Eight in ten teens (80%) say that it would be much easier for teens to delay sexual activity and avoid teen pregnancy if they were able to have more open, honest conversations about these topics with their parents.
Six in ten teens (63%) agree that the primary reason teens don't use contraception is because they are afraid that their parents will find out.
Many teens (46%) and most adults (73%) wish young people were getting more information about both abstinence and contraception rather than either/or. By comparison, 18% of teens say they want more information about birth control and 9% want more information about abstinence. The overwhelming majority of teens (87%) and adults (93%) also agree it is important for teens to be given a strong message that they should not have sex until they are at least out of high school.
Teen Pregnancy, Education, and Religion
About nine in ten teens (91% of girls and 87% of boys) and two-thirds of adults (66%) say that teen pregnancy is a "very important" problem in the United States and nearly all adults (89%) believe there should be a direct effort in their community to prevent teen pregnancy.
About nine in ten teens (87%) and adults (90%) believe reducing teen pregnancy is a very effective way to reduce the high school dropout rate and improve academic achievement.
Most teens (73%) and adults (70%) believe religious leaders and faith groups should be doing more to help prevent teen pregnancy.
Among those teens who have watched MTV's 16 and Pregnant, 82% think the show helps teens better understand the challenges of teen pregnancy and parenthood and how to avoid it.
More broadly, most teens (79% of girls and 67% of boys) agree with the statement: "When a TV show or character I like deals with teen pregnancy, it makes me think more about my own risk of becoming pregnant/causing a pregnancy and how to avoid it."
Sex, Regret, Relationships, and Sexting
Among those teens who have had sex, most (65% of girls and 57% of boys) say they wish they had waited longer.
Most teens (93% of girls and 88% of boys) say they would rather have a boyfriend/girlfriend and not have sex than have sex but not have a boyfriend or girlfriend.
Most teens (71%) agree that sharing nude or semi-nude images of themselves or other teens electronically through cell phones, websites, and/or social media networks leads to more sex in real life.