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America's Children: Key National Indicators of Well-Being, 2021

Adolescent Births

Childbirth during adolescence often is associated with long-term difficulties for both mother and child. Compared with babies born to older mothers, babies born to adolescent mothers, particularly younger adolescent mothers, are at higher risk for low birthweight and infant mortality.10, 20, 21 These babies 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.22, 23 For the mothers, giving birth during adolescence is associated with limited educational attainment, which in turn can reduce employment prospects and earnings potential.22, 23 Although adolescent birth rates for all racial and ethnic groups have been on a long-term decline since the late 1950s, birth rates have been historically higher for Hispanic and Black, non-Hispanic adolescents than for White, non-Hispanic adolescents.10, 24

Indicator FAM6: Birth rates for females ages 15–17 by race and Hispanic origin, 2009–2019
Indicator FAM6: Birth rates for females ages 15–17 by race and Hispanic origin, 2009–2019

NOTE: NH = non-Hispanic origin; AIAN = American Indian or Alaska Native; API = Asian or Pacific Islander; NHOPI = Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander. Starting with 2016 data, race on birth records is available for the entire United States based on the 1997 Office of Management and Budget (OMB) standards and presented as single-race estimates (only one race was reported on the birth certificate). These estimates include separate estimates for Asian, non-Hispanic and Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander, non-Hispanic groups. Data published before 2016 were tabulated according to the 1977 OMB standards and bridged to retain comparability across states as they transitioned from the 1977 standards to those of 1997. Single-race estimates for 2016 and beyond are not completely comparable with bridged-race estimates for earlier years, particularly for smaller race categories. In 2016, the Asian or Pacific Islander group was split into two different race groups: Asian and Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander. To look at longer trends, bridged-race estimates for the combined Asian or Pacific Islander group also are presented. Persons of Hispanic origin may be of any race.

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

  • The birth rate for females ages 15–17 declined from 20 per 1,000 in 2009 to 7 per 1,000 in 2019, a record low for the United States. This long-term downward trend was found for every race and Hispanic origin group during the period.
  • For White, non-Hispanic adolescents, the birth rate for females ages 15–17 declined throughout the period, from 11 per 1,000 in 2009 to 4 per 1,000 in 2019.
  • For Black, non-Hispanic adolescents, the birth rate for females ages 15–17 declined throughout the period, from 31 per 1,000 in 2009 to 11 per 1,000 in 2019.
  • For American Indian or Alaska Native, non-Hispanic adolescents, the birth rate for females ages 15–17 declined throughout the period, from 33 per 1,000 in 2009 to 14 per 1,000 in 2019.
  • For Asian or Pacific Islander, non-Hispanic adolescents ages 15–17, the birth rate for females ages 15–17 declined throughout the period, from 6 per 1,000 in 2009 to 2 per 1,000 in 2015. In 2019, the birth rates were 1 per 1,000 for Asian, non-Hispanic adolescents and 8 per 1,000 for Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander, non-Hispanic adolescents.
  • For Hispanic adolescents ages 15–17, the birth rate for females ages 15–17 declined throughout the period, from 37 per 1,000 in 2009 to 11 per 1,000 in 2019.
  • Despite the declines for every race and Hispanic origin group, substantial racial and ethnic disparities persisted. In 2019, American Indian or Alaska Native, non-Hispanic adolescents ages 15–17 had the highest birth rate (14 per 1,000); followed by Hispanic (11 per 1,000); Black, non-Hispanic (11 per 1,000); Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander, non-Hispanic (8 per 1,000); White, non-Hispanic (4 per 1,000); and Asian, non-Hispanic (1 per 1,000) adolescents.

table icon FAM6 HTML Table

10 Martin, J. A., Hamilton, B. E., Osterman, M. J. K., & Driscoll, A. K. (2019). Births: Final data for 2018. National Vital Statistics Reports, 68(13). National Center for Health Statistics.

20 Ely, D. M., & Driscoll, A. K. (2020). Infant mortality in the United States, 2018: Data from the period linked birth/ infant death file. National Vital Statistics Reports, 69(7), 1–18. National Center for Health Statistics.

21 Woodall, A. M., & Driscoll, A. K. (2020). Racial and ethnic differences in mortality rate of infants born to teen mothers: United States, 2017–2018 (NCHS Data Brief No. 371). National Center for Health Statistics.

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

23 Driscoll, A. K. (2014). Adult outcomes of teen mothers across birth cohorts. Demographic Research, 30(44), 1277–1292.

24 Ventura, S. J., Mathews, T. J., & Hamilton, B. E. (2001). Births to teenagers in the United States, 1940–2000. National Vital Statistics Reports, 49(10). National Center for Health Statistics.