Teen Births, by Race/Ethnicity
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Learn More About Teen Births

Measures of Teen Births on Kidsdata.org
On kidsdata.org, data for teen births (overallby age of mother, and by race/ethnicity) are provided as numbers and rates (i.e., the number of births per 1,000 adolescent girls, ages 15-19).
Teen Births
Demographics
Breastfeeding
Disconnected Youth
Low Birthweight and Preterm Births
Prenatal Care
Teen Sexual Health
Why This Topic Is Important
Infants of teen mothers are at higher risk for physical, social, and emotional challenges than infants of mothers in their 20s and early 30s (1). Teen mothers are more likely to have babies born prematurely or with low birthweight. They also are more likely to have babies who die in infancy, compared to mothers in their 20s and 30s (1). Children born to teen mothers are at increased risk for academic and behavioral problems, such as lower math and reading achievement and poorer motor, communication, and social skills (1, 2). In addition, children born to teens are more likely to enter the foster care system and to become teen parents themselves than children born to older mothers (3). Of course, not all children born to teens face these difficulties, and many go on to lead productive and healthy lives.

Giving birth as a teenager also can create disadvantages for the mother and the father. Teen mothers are more likely to become welfare dependent than other teens (1), and teen parenthood for both mothers and fathers is associated with lower educational attainment and lower income levels (4). Fiscal hardship can be compounded by the fact that teen mothers are less likely to be married or stay married, which may mean covering family expenses on their own (1). However, it is important to note that some teen parents are able to manage these challenges successfully, become competent parents, and reach their educational or career goals later in life.

Research estimates that teen births cost society at least $9.4 billion annually, most of which is associated with negative outcomes for the children of teen parents, including increased costs for health care, foster care, incarceration, lost productivity, and tax revenue (1, 5).

See kidsdata.org's Research & Links section for more information about teen births.

Sources for this narrative:

1. Child Trends. (2013). Teen births. Retrieved from: http://www.childtrends.org/?indicators=teen-births

2.  The National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy. (2007). Why it matters: Teen pregnancy and overall child well-being. Retrieved from: http://thenationalcampaign.org/resource/why-it-matters-teen-pregnancy-and-overall-child-wellbeing

3.  The National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy. (2010). Why it matters: Teen pregnancy and child welfare. Retrieved from: http://thenationalcampaign.org/resource/why-it-matters-teen-childbearing-and-child-welfare

4.  U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (2011). Healthy People 2020: Family planning. Retrieved from: http://healthypeople.gov/2020/topicsobjectives2020/overview.aspx?topicid=13

5.  The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unwanted Pregnancy. (2013). Counting it up: The public costs of teen childbearing. Retrieved from: http://thenationalcampaign.org/resource/counting-it-key-data-2013

How Children Are Faring

The teen birth rate in California decreased by 59% between 1995 and 2012, from 62.9 to 25.7 per 1,000 young women ages 15-19. This decline was evident at the county level, as well; teen birth rates dropped in all counties with available data during this period. Despite this decrease, many counties continue to have high rates, with some nearing 50 teen births per 1,000 young women in 2012. The majority of the state’s teen births are to women ages 18 to 19, though rates declined for all teen age groups (under 15, 15-17, and 18-19) from 1995 to 2012.

Trends among racial/ethnic groups can be compared for the period of 2000-2012 (racial definitions changed in 2000). Teen birth rates in California decreased for all racial/ethnic groups during that time. However, large differences by race/ethnicity remain. In 2012, the teen birth rate among Latina youth was 38.9 per 1,000, compared to 30.7 for African American/Black, 30.5 for American Indian/Alaska Native, 17.8 for multiracial, 10.1 for white, and 5.5 for Asian/Pacific Islander teens.

Policy Implications

The teen birth rate in the U.S. is at its lowest level in seven decades, but it still is higher than the teen birth rates of other developed nations (1, 2, 3). Early sexual activity and ineffective or non-use of contraceptives contribute to teen births (3, 4, 5). Children of teen moms are more likely to be born prematurely or at a low birthweight, and they tend to have poorer academic and behavioral outcomes than children born to older mothers (4). Teen mothers are less likely to complete high school or go to college compared to older mothers (3, 4). Also, nearly one in five teen births is a repeat birth, meaning many teen parents have multiple children before they are 20 (5). Government at all levels—including the school-district—as well as the health care sector, media, advocacy organizations, parents, and peers can influence teen sexual activity, pregnancy, and births.

According to research and subject experts, policy options that could influence teen births include:

  • Funding and empowering school districts to provide proven, curriculum-based teen pregnancy prevention programs that encourage both delaying sexual activity and informed use of contraception among sexually active teens; programs should be offered during and after school (3, 4, 6, 7)
  • Funding youth development programs that encourage teens to think about and plan for their futures and engage them in their communities (3, 4, 5, 7)
  • Funding home visiting and health interventions targeted at preventing subsequent pregnancies for teen mothers (4, 5, 7)
  • Ensuring access to quality prenatal care and infant care and support for teen parents via youth-friendly clinical services (4)

For more policy ideas and research on this topic, see kidsdata.org’s Research & Links section, or visit The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, The Guttmacher Institute, or the California Adolescent Health Collaborative. Also see Policy Implications on kidsdata.org under Low Birthweight and Preterm Births, Teen Sexual Health, Dating and Domestic Violence, High School Graduation, and Poverty.

Sources for this narrative:

1.  Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. (2012). Sexual experience and contraceptive use among female teens—United States, 1995, 2002, and 2006-2010. Retrieved from: http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm6117a1.htm?s_cid=mm6117a1_e

2.  Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2012). NCHS data brief, no 89: Birth rates for U.S. teenagers reach historic lows for all age and ethnic groups. Retrieved from: http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/databriefs/db89.htm

3.  Basch, C. (2011). Teen pregnancy and the achievement gap among urban minority youth. Journal of School Health, 81(10), 614-618. Retrieved from: http://www.rmc.org/wpdev/wp-content/uploads/2012/12/Teen-Pregnancy-and-the-Achievement-Gap-Among-Urban-Minority-Youth.pdf

4.  Schuyler Center for Analysis and Advocacy. (2008). Teenage births: Outcomes for young parents and their children. Retrieved from: http://www.scaany.org/documents/teen_pregnancy_dec08.pdf  

5.  Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. (2013). Vital signs: Repeat births among teens—United States 2007-2010. Retrieved from: http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm6213a4.htm?s_cid=mm6213a4_w

6.  U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Adolescent Health. (2010). Programs for replication – Intervention implementation reports. Retrieved from: http://www.hhs.gov/ash/oah/oah-initiatives/tpp/index.html

7.  Boonstra, H. (2010). Winning campaign: California’s concerted effort to reduce its teen pregnancy rate. Guttmacher Policy Review, 13(2). Retrieved from: https://www.guttmacher.org/pubs/gpr/13/2/gpr130218.html   

Websites with Related Information
Key Reports
County/Regional Reports
More Data Sources For Teen Births