The US Has Fewer Teen Moms Than Ever

Why fewer teens are having babies.

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You might not guess it based on the popularity of MTV shows like Teen Mom and Sixteen and Pregnant, but according to a new CDC report, the birthrate among US teens dropped six percent last year. The reason for this drop is unknown, but the recession, abstinence education, increased birth control and a decline in immigration are all being thrown out as possible explanations for the change.

  • It’s The Recession  The recession caused the overall birth rate in the US to decline in 2009, suggesting teens may also be factoring the economy into their decision making when it comes to having sex. In a Washington Post report, Rob Stein quotes Sarah Brown of the Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancies on the matter. "When money is very tight, all of us think harder about taking risks, expanding our families, taking on new responsibilities," Brown said. "Now, I know that teens may not be as savvy about money as those in their 20s and 30s--they probably don't stress over 401 (k)s like the rest of us--but many teens live with financially stressed adults, and they see neighbors and older friends losing jobs and even losing houses. So they, too, feel the squeeze and may be reacting to it by being more prudent. ... Maybe part of tightening our belts includes keeping our zippers closed, too!"
  • Since When Do Teenagers Think About The Economy?  Salon's Tracy Clark-Flory is skeptical of the recession explanation. "It's a surprising idea, that teenagers are keeping it in their pants because a baby isn't a prudent choice in the current economic environment. Foresight isn't what we expect from those creatures of impulse--and, indeed, when is a baby a practical economic choice for a teen?" she asks. Clark-Flory talks to Bill Albert of the National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy who clarifies that there was actually an unexplained increase in teen births in 2006 and 2007 and that 2009’s decrease is more of a return to the norm. And since, according to Guttmacher's Rachel Jones, "the levels of teen sexual activity haven't changed, which would suggest that there isn't more abstinence out there--but there was a change in contraceptive use."
  • Experts Boast That Their Own Programs Caused of Decline  AOL News' Nathaniel Jones notes the most popular reasons given for the decline in teen births: the low overall birth rate, the recession, Bristol Palin, and abstinence only education. "In all likelihood, the drop in teen pregnancy is probably a combination of the four factors," he suggests. "But that won't stop experts from arguing the downward trend points toward the need for their causes to get more funding."
  • Less Immigration, Less Pregnant Teens?  Mike Stobbe at The Associated Press reports that as a result of the deflated job market, immigration into the United States has also decreased. Hispanics, who make up a large portion of immigrants to the United States, also account for "nearly 1 in 4 births in 2009. The birth rate among Hispanic teens is the highest of any ethnic group with 70 births per 1,000 girls in 2009. However, that rate, too, was down from the previous year," according to Stobbe.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.