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America's Children in Brief: Key National Indicators of Well-Being, 2016

Adolescent Births

Childbirth during adolescence is often accompanied by 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.3, 4, 5, 6 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.7 For mothers, giving birth during adolescence is associated with limited educational attainment, which in turn can reduce employment prospects and earnings potential.7 Although adolescent birth rates for all racial and ethnic groups have generally been on a long-term decline since the late 1950s, birth rates continue to vary by race and ethnicity.8, 9

Figure 3: Birth rates for females ages 15–17 by race and Hispanic origin of mother, 1995–2014
Birth rates for females ages 15–17 by race and Hispanic origin of mother, 1995–2014

NOTE: Race refers to mother's race. Persons of Hispanic origin may be of any race. Data on race and Hispanic origin are collected and reported separately. Data from states reporting multiple races were bridged to the single-race categories of the 1977 Office of Management and Budget Standards on Race and Ethnicity for comparability with other states.

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

  • In 2014, the adolescent birth rate was 19 births per 1,000 females for American Indian or Alaska Native, non-Hispanic and Hispanic adolescents; 17 for Black, non-Hispanic; 7 for White, non-Hispanic; and 3 for Asian or Pacific Islander, non-Hispanic adolescents ages 15–17.
  • From 1995 to 2014, the total adolescent birth rate declined by 25 percentage points, from 36 per 1,000 to 11 per 1,000, a record low for the United States. This long-term downward trend was found for each racial and Hispanic origin group.
  • The racial and ethnic disparity (the difference between the highest and lowest rates) in adolescent birth rates declined from 55 points in 1995 to 17 points in 2014. Yet, substantial racial and ethnic disparities remain. Adolescent birth rates among Hispanic; Black, non-Hispanic; and American Indian or Alaska Native, non-Hispanic adolescents remained higher than the rates for White, non-Hispanic and Asian or Pacific Islander, non-Hispanic adolescents throughout the entire period. Asian or Pacific Islander, non-Hispanic adolescents had the lowest birth rates.

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3 Ventura, S. J., & Bachrach, C. A. (2000). Nonmarital childbearing in the United States, 1940–1999. National Vital Statistics Reports, 48(16), 1–40. Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nvsr/nvsr48/nvs48_16.pdf

4 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), 1–26. Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nvsr/nvsr62/nvsr62_08.pdf

5 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), 1–65. Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nvsr/nvsr64/nvsr64_01.pdf

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

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

8 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), 1–24. Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nvsr/nvsr49/nvsr49_10.pdf

9 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). http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/databriefs/db89.pdf