Kids Having Kids Declines
The teen birth rate fell to a record low in 2003--to 41.6 births per 1,000 women 15 to 19 years old, according to the National Center for Health Statistics. That's the lowest number of births to women under 20 years of age since 1946, the first year of the baby boom. The declines in teen births have been especially striking among young black girls. Their overall rate dropped 45 percent since 1991, and the rate for the youngest black females (aged 15 to 17 years) has plunged by more than half. Data suggest that both delayed initiation of sexual intercourse and increased contraceptive use contributed equally to the declines, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Rates are not as good for young Hispanic women. And the United States continues to have the highest rate of teen pregnancy among comparable countries. Unmarried teens who bear babies are less likely to complete school and more likely to be single parents. They're also at higher risk for serious health problems, including obesity, hypertension, anemia and sexually transmitted diseases. Children born to adolescents are more likely to be of low birth weight and have related health problems. They are also more likely to be poor.
CHILDREN OF TEEN MOTHERS
Number nearly half a million each year. Between 1995 and 2010, the number of teenaged girls is projected to increase by 2.2 million.
Are at risk of being born too small raising the probabilities of infant death, blindness, deafness, chronic respiratory problems, mental retardation, mental illness and cerebral palsy.
Are more likely to end up on welfare. Almost half of all teenage mothers and more than three-fourths of unmarried teen mothers go on welfare within five years of the birth of their first child. It costs some $40 billion in federal money every year to help families that began with a teenage birth.
Are 50 percent more likely to repeat a grade and perform poorly on standardized tests and less likely to complete high school than if their mothers had delayed childbearing. Low birth weight doubles the chances of dyslexia, hyperactivity or other disabilities.
Are at risk of abuse and neglect (110 reported incidents per 1,000 families). If half the teen mothers delayed child-bearing, it would save nearly $1 billion a year in foster care costs.
DECLINE IN TEEN BIRTH RATES (BY STATE, 1991-2002) Percent States 1991 2002 Decline Rank Alabama 73.5 54.5 -25.9% 31 Alaska 66.0 39.5 -40.2 4 Arizona 79.7 61.2 -23.2 40 Arkansas 79.5 59.9 -24.7 33 California 73.8 41.1 -44.3 1 Colorado 58.3 47.0 -19.4 48 Connecticut 40.1 25.8 -35.7 9 Delaware 60. …