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CDC: Teen Birth Rate Has Dropped by 30 Percent

Update Date: May 23, 2013 12:35 PM EDT

Though the teen birth rate in the United States is still by far the highest in the industrialized world, health officials are applauding a significant decline in teen births over the past five years. In total, all states except West Virginia and North Dakota had a significant drop in the teen birth rate.

According to NBC News, the teen birth rate dropped by 30 percent. That drop was most significant in the Hispanic community, where the birth rate dropped by 34 percent on average, and by over 40 percent in over 22 states. Among non-Hispanic Black teens, the teen birth rate dropped by 24 percent, and among non-Hispanic White teens, the teen birth rate dropped by 20 percent.

The teen birth rate remains heavily divided across racial and geographical lines. According to the AFP, the teen birth rate among Hispanics is about 49.4 per 1,000 teens. Among African American teens, there are 47.4 births per 1,000 teens, while among Caucasian teens, there are 21.8 per 1,000 teens.

The Christian Science Monitor reports that there is also a stark difference among states. The South reports the highest number of teen pregnancies, as both Arkansas and Mississippi have teen birth rates higher than 50 per 1,000 teens. The Northeast, meanwhile, has the lowest rate, with Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Vermont all boasting teen birth rates lower than 17 per 1,000 teens.

Officials are not quite sure who to credit for the falling teen birth rate, though it has been on decline since 1991, with the exception of a small bump in 2006 and 2007. However, experts do believe that some of the responsibility falls on the economy, which has reduced enthusiasm for having children for all women, regardless of age.

Researchers also point to increased immigration crackdowns and the weakened economy in recent years, which has reduced the number of undocumented immigrants entering the country. People tend to adopt different values the longer that they are in the United States, health officials say, and native-born women have fewer children than those who were born in other countries.

The Atlantic Cities suggests that the portions of the country where the teen birth rate remains high may be linked to weaker sex education, less access to contraceptives and reduced access to abortion providers.

It is possible that all of these factors have played a role in the precipitous decline in the teen birth rate - seen as a positive thing as teen births are linked to reduced education and earning potential for teen parents, as well as lower birth weights and increased infant deaths for children. "Geography, politics, or policy alone simply cannot explain the widespread declines," Bill Albert, the chief program officer for the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, said to the Christian Science Monitor. "Credit goes to teens themselves who are clearly making better decisions about sex, contraception, and their future."

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