Preventing teen pregnancy is one of those perennial hot button issues in the news, and countless sources cite the statistic that 3/4 of a million teens become pregnant each year. But what are the real facts and figures on teenage pregnancy in the U.S.? How current is the data and is teen pregnancy overblown by the media? What are the statistics for teen abortions and teen births?
The February 2012 study "U.S. Teenage Pregnancies, Births and Abortions, 2008: National Trends by Age, Race and Ethnicity," authored by Kathryn Kost and Stanley Henshaw and released by the Guttmacher Institute draws upon the most current estimates available and provides data on teen pregnancy rates in the United States in 2008 on a national level.
Teen pregnancy rates differ from teen birth rates in that pregnancy rates include births, abortions, miscarriages and stillbirths. Current statistics including pregnancy, birth and abortion rates are outlined below.
Number of Teenage Pregnancies
In 2008, there were approximately 746,500 teen pregnancies involving young women and girls under age 20. The bulk of those pregnancies -- 733,000 -- were among teens age 15-19, while girls 14 and younger accounted for 13,500 pregnancies.
Teenage Pregnancy Rate
Among teens age 15-17, the pregnancy rate was 67.8 pregnancies per 1,000 women, or 7% of the population. This rate was the lowest in over 30 years, down 42% from the peak pregnancy rate of 116.9 per thousand in 1990. Among girls 14 and younger, the pregnancy rate declined 62% from a high of 17.5 pregnancies per thousand in 1990 to 6.6 per thousand in 2008.
Pregnancy Rate of Sexually Active Teens
The pregnancy rate of sexually experienced teens (those who have ever had intercourse) was 158.5 pregnancies per thousand young women age 15-19, which indicates that the overall teenage pregnancy rate includes a significant proportion of teens who have never had sex. That rate reached its peak in 1990, when it was 223.1 per thousand -- a decline of 29%.
Teenage Birth Rate
In 2008 the teen birth rate was 40.2 births per 1,000 women, a drop of 35% from the peak rate of 61.8 per thousand in 1991.
Teenage Abortion Rate
In 2008 the teen abortion rate was 17.8 abortions per 1,000 women, the lowest rate since abortion was legalized. Abortion rates for teens peaked in 1988 at 43.5 per thousand; compared with the 2008 rate, that represents a decline of 59%. Although teen birth and abortion rates have been on a steady decline for more than two decades, in 2006 there was an short-lived increase in both the teenage birth and abortion rate. Both rates resumed their decline according to 2008 figures.
Teenage Abortion Ratio
The proportion of teen pregnancies that end in abortion (known as the abortion ratio) declined by a third from 1986-2008, from 46% to 31%.
Teen Pregnancy Rates Across Racial and Ethnic Groups
Although declines were seen among all three groups (white, black, Hispanic), the teen pregnancy rate remains higher among black teens and Hispanic teens as compared to non-Hispanic white teens.
For non-Hispanic white teens, the pregnancy rate declined 50% since 1990 (from 86.6 pregnancies per 1,000 to 43.3). Among black women aged 15–19, the pregnancy rate dropped 48% between 1990 and 2008 (from 223.8 pregnancies per 1,000 to 117.0). Hispanic teenagers (of any race), the pregnancy rate fell 37% from its highest level between 1992 and 2008 (from 169.7 per 1,000 to 106.6.)
Teen Pregnancy Rates and Racial Disparity
When compared to each other, the disparity in teen pregnancy rates across racial and ethnic groups is apparent. Rates among black and Hispanic teens were 2–3 higher than that of non-Hispanic white teens. Among the different groups, in 2008 the pregnancy rate per thousand for young women age 15-19 was:
- 43.3 for non-Hispanic white teens
- 106.6 for Hispanic teens (of any race)
- 117.0 for black teens
A similar disparity exists in teen abortion rates across racial and ethnic groups. Abortion rates among black teens were 4 times higher than that of non-Hispanic white teens; among Hispanic teens, the rate was twice as high. Among the different groups, in 2008 the abortion rate per thousand for young women age 15-19 was:
- 10.4 for non-Hispanic white teens
- 20.1 for Hispanic teens (of any race)
- 40.8 for black teens
Likewise, the disparity continues in teen birth rates across racial and ethnic groups. Birth rates among black and Hispanic teens in 2008 were twice the rate of non-Hispanic white teens. Among the different groups, in 2008 the birth rate per thousand for young women age 15-19 was:
- 26.6 for non-Hispanic white teens
- 70.3 for Hispanic teens (of any race)
- 60.1 for black teens
In 2008 the following numbers for women younger than age 20 were recorded and/or estimated:
- Total number of pregnancies - 746,530
- Total number of births - 440,522
- Total number of abortions - 198,100
- Total number of estimated miscarriages (including stillbirths) - 107,910
Kost, Kathryn and Stanley Henshaw. "U.S. Teenage Pregnancies, Births and Abortions, 2008: National Trends by Age, Race and Ethnicity." Guttmacher Institute, Guttmacher.org. 8 February 2012.