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America's Children: Key National Indicators of Well-Being, 2017

Adolescent Births

Childbirth during adolescence often is associated with long-term difficulties for the mother and her child. 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.9, 21, 22, 23 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.24 For the mothers, giving birth during adolescence is associated with limited educational attainment, which in turn can reduce employment prospects and earnings potential.24 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.25, 26

Indicator FAM6: Birth rates for females ages 15–17 by race and Hispanic origin, 1990–2015
Indicator FAM6: Birth rates for females ages 15–17 by race and Hispanic origin, 1990–2015

NOTE: Race refers to mother's race. The 1977 U.S. 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 standards 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. 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.

  • From 1990 to 2015, the adolescent birth rate for females ages 15–17 declined from 38 per 1,000 to 10 per 1,000, a record low for the United States. Rates were stable in the early 1990s, then declined from 1994 through 2015. This long-term downward trend was found for each race and Hispanic origin group.
  • Among White, non-Hispanic and Black, non-Hispanic adolescents, the birth rates for ages 15–17 fell from 1990 through 2003, then stabilized through 2008, and then the trend declined through 2015.
  • Among American Indian or Alaska Native, non-Hispanic and Hispanic adolescents ages 15–17, birth rates were stable in the early 1990s, then declined through 2002. Both groups had a stable period in the 2000s before declining from 2007–2008 through 2015.
  • The birth rates for Asian or Pacific Islander, non-Hispanic adolescents ages 15–17 were stable from 1990 to 1996 and then decreased from 1996 through 2015.
  • Despite these long-term declines, substantial racial and ethnic disparities persisted throughout the period. In 2015, the birth rate ranged from 2 per 1,000 for Asian or Pacific Islander, non-Hispanic adolescents ages 15–17 to 6 for White, non-Hispanic; 15 for Black, non-Hispanic; 17 for Hispanic; and 19 for American Indian or Alaska Native, non-Hispanic adolescents in the same age group.

table icon FAM6 HTML Table

9 Ventura, S. J., & 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.

21 Mathews, T. J., & MacDorman, M. F. (2013). Infant mortality statistics from the 2010 period linked birth/infant death data set. National Vital Statistics Reports, 62 (8). Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics.

22 Martin, J. A., Hamilton, B. E., Osterman, M. J. K., Curtin, S. C., & Mathews, T. J. (2015). Births: final data for 2013. National Vital Statistics Reports, 64 (1). Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics.

23 Kiely, J. L., Brett, K. M., Yu, S., & 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.

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

25 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). Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics.

26 Hamilton, B. E. & Ventura, S. J. (2012). Births rates for U.S. teenagers reach historic lows for all age and ethnic groups (NCHS Data Brief, No. 39). Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics.