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Teen Pregnancy - Rise in Teen Pregnancy Rates After Decades of Decline

In 2006, 3% Increase in Teen Pregnancy Rates Means 7% of Girls Became Pregnant


Teen Pregnancy - Rise in Teen Pregnancy Rates After Decades of Decline
© Geoff Manasse/Photodisc/Getty Images
Updated February 24, 2010
For the first time in 16 years, teen pregnancy is on the rise. It's a trend one expert called "deeply troubling," as many see it linked to the decline of contraceptive use among teens and the increase of "abstinence only" sex education programs.

According to a January 2010 report from the Guttmacher Institute, the teen pregnancy rate in the United States rose 3% in 2006, paralleling the 4% rise in teen births and 1% rise in teen abortions for that year.

In 1990, teen pregnancy rates peaked with 116.9 pregnancies for every thousand women ages 15-19. At its lowest point in 2005, only 69.5 pregnancies occurred for every thousand. That's a 41% decline over 15 years. In roughly the same time period, teen birth rates dropped 35% (1991-2005) and teen abortion dropped 56% (1988-2005).

The following statistics describe the pregnancy, birth and abortion rates of teenage girls ages 15-19 for the year 2006:

  • The teen pregnancy rate was 71.5 pregnancies per thousand, for a total of 742,990 pregnancies. That's approximately 7% of the female teenage population.
  • The teen birth rate was 41.9 births per thousand for a total of 435,436 births among teen girls.
  • The teen abortion rate was 19.3 abortions per thousand for a total of 200,420 abortions among teen girls.

Although the rise in teen pregnancy, birth and abortion is disheartening to teen pregnancy prevention advocates, it was not entirely unexpected. As the Guttmacher report indicates:

..[E]xperts have suspected for several years, based on trends in teens’ contraceptive use…that the overall teen pregnancy rate would increase in the mid-2000s….The significant drop in teen pregnancy rates in the 1990s was overwhelmingly the result of more and better use of contraceptives among sexually active teens. However, this decline started to stall out in the early 2000s, at the same time that sex education programs aimed exclusively at promoting abstinence—and prohibited by law from discussing the benefits of contraception—became increasingly widespread and teens’ use of contraceptives declined….

“After more than a decade of progress, this reversal is deeply troubling,” says Heather Boonstra, Guttmacher Institute senior public policy associate.

Experts will be examining data as it comes in for 2007 and 2008 to determine whether or not the 2006 rise in teen pregnancy is a short-term bump or the start of a long-term trend that reverses years of effective teen pregnancy prevention.

"Following Decade-Long Decline, U.S. Teen Pregnancy Rate Increases as Both Births and Abortions Rise." Guttmacher.org, 26 January 2010.
"U.S. Teenage Pregnancies, Births and Abortions: National and State Trends and Trends by Race and Ethnicity." Guttmacher.org, January 2010.

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