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America's Children: Key National Indicators of Well-Being, 2013

Adolescent Births

Bearing a child during adolescence is often associated with long-term difficulties for the mother and her child. These consequences are often attributable to poverty and other adverse socioeconomic circumstances that frequently accompany early childbearing.25 Compared with babies born to older mothers, babies born to adolescent mothers, particularly younger adolescent mothers, are at higher risk of low birthweight and infant mortality.6, 8, 9, 26 They are more likely to grow up in homes that offer lower levels of emotional support and cognitive stimulation and they are less likely to earn high school diplomas. For the mothers, giving birth during adolescence is associated with limited educational attainment, which in turn can reduce employment prospects and earnings potential.27 The birth rate of adolescents under age 18 is a measure of particular interest because these mothers are still of school age.

Indicator Fam6: Birth rates for females ages 15–17 by race and Hispanic origin, 1980–2011
Birth rates for females ages 15–17 by race and Hispanic origin, 1980–2011

NOTE: Data for 2011 are preliminary. Race refers to mother's race. The 1977 Office of Management and Budget (OMB) standards for data on race and ethnicity were used to classify persons into one of the following four racial groups: White, Black, American Indian or Alaskan Native, or Asian or Pacific Islander. Although state reporting of birth certificate data is transitioning to comply with the 1997 OMB standard for race and ethnicity statistics, data from states reporting multiple races were bridged to the single-race categories of the 1977 OMB standards for comparability with other states and for trend analysis. Rates for 1980–1989 are not shown for Hispanics; White, non-Hispanics; or Black, non-Hispanics because information on Hispanic origin of the mother was not reported on birth certificates of most states and because population estimates by Hispanic ethnicity for the reporting states were not available. Data on race and Hispanic origin are collected and reported separately. Persons of Hispanic origin may be of any race.

SOURCE: National Center for Health Statistics, National Vital Statistics System.

  • In 2011, the adolescent birth rate was 15 per 1,000 adolescents ages 15–17. There were 95,554 births to these adolescents in 2011, according to preliminary data. The 2011 rate was lower than the 2010 rate of 17 per 1,000 and more than one-quarter lower than the 2007 rate of 22 per 1,000.
  • The rate has fallen for four consecutive years, continuing a decline briefly interrupted in 2005–2007; the long-term decline began 1991–1992.6, 11, 28 In 1991, the rate was 39, and it declined to 21 births per 1,000 in 2005.
  • There remain substantial racial and ethnic disparities among the birth rates for adolescents ages 15–17. In 2011, the birth rate was 5 per 1,000 for Asians or Pacific Islanders, 9 for White, non-Hispanics, 18 for American Indians or Alaskan Natives, 25 for Black, non-Hispanics, and 28 for Hispanics.10
  • The birth rates for Black, non-Hispanic, White, non-Hispanic, and Asian or Pacific Islander females ages 15–17 dropped by about half or more between 1991 and 2005, reversing the increase between 1986 and 1991. Declines in the rates for these groups stalled in 2005–2007, but they have since declined through 2011.10, 28
  • The birth rate for Hispanic adolescents fell from 1991 to 2011. The 2011 rate for Hispanic adolescents, 28 per 1,000, was the lowest ever reported since data became available in 1990, when the rate was 66 per 1,000.10, 11
  • In 2011, some 95 percent of births to females ages 15–17 were to unmarried mothers, compared with 62 percent in 1980 (see FAM2.B).
  • The rates of first and second births for females ages 15–17 declined by one-half and nearly three-fourths, respectively, from 1991 to 2010.6, 11

table icon FAM6 HTML Table

6 Martin, J.A., Hamilton, B.E., Ventura, S.J., Osterman, M.J.K., Wilson, E.C., and Mathews, T.J. (2012). Births: Final data for 2010. National Vital Statistics Reports 61(1). Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics.

8 Ventura, S.J., and Bachrach, C.A. (2000). Nonmarital childbearing in the United States, 1940–1999. National Vital Statistics Reports, 48(16). Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics.

9 Mathews, T.J., and MacDorman, M.F. (2012). Infant mortality statistics from the 2008 period linked birth/infant death data set. National Vital Statistics Reports, 60(5). Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics.

10 Hamilton, B.E., Martin, J.A., and Ventura, S.J. (2012). Births: Preliminary data for 2011. National Vital Statistics Reports, 61(5). Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics.

11 Hamilton, B.E., Sutton, P.D., and Ventura, S.J. (2003). Revised birth and fertility rates for the 1990s and new rates for Hispanic populations, 2000 and 2001: United States. National Vital Statistics Reports, 51(12). Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics.

25 Klerman, L.V. (1993). Adolescent pregnancy and parenting: Controversies of the past and lessons for the future. Journal of Adolescent Health, 14, 553–561.

26 Kiely, J.L., Brett, K.M., Yu, S., and Rowley, D.L. (1994). Low birthweight and intrauterine growth retardation. In L.S. Wilcox, and J.S. Marks, (Eds.), From data to action: CDC's public health surveillance for women, infants, and children (pp. 185–202). Atlanta, GA: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

27 Maynard, R.A. (Ed.). (2008). Kids having kids: Economic costs and social consequences of teen pregnancy. Washington, DC: The Urban Institute Press.

28 Hamilton, B.E., and Ventura, S.J. (2012). Birth rates for U.S. teenagers reach historic lows for all age and ethnic groups. NCHS Data Brief, No. 89. Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics.