Very Good News: Teen Pregnancy and Abortion Hit Record Lows

More 18- and 19-year-old women are having sex, but fewer are getting pregnant.

There are fewer pregnant teens than at any time since we started tracking the statistic, according to new data from the Guttmacher Institute. The teenage birthrate and abortion rate have also hit record lows, although the decline has been slightly less dramatic.

Guttmacher Institute

Even though increasing proportions of women ages 18 and 19 reported having sex, the smallest portion on record are getting pregnant. "Changes in contraceptive use are likely driving this trend," write authors Kathryn Kost and Stanley Henshaw. Previous studies have found that media awareness of teen moms, like the eponymous MTV show "Teen Moms," are also responsible for declining pregnancies, although the 30-year trend suggests that there's something else (presumably sex education and wider use of contraceptives) besides a new MTV show driving the trend.

National trends are instructive, but sometimes it's more useful to break the United States into individual, well, states, to capture the finer strands. I downloaded the data for historical state-by-state teen pregnancies from Guttmacher and looked at the last 20 years. No state saw a steeper drop in its abortion rate than California.

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Derek Thompson is a senior editor at The Atlantic, where he writes about economics, labor markets, and the entertainment business.

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