Pregnancies among American girls under the age of 15 have fallen dramatically during the past two decades, reaching a record low in 2016, according to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
There were 2,253 births among 10- to 14-year-old girls in the United States in 2016, down from 8,519 in 2000 — a 73 percent drop.
The CDC report, which is based on data collected from birth certificates, also notes that the downward trajectory of the birthrate among girls 10-14 accelerated significantly over the last decade. It dropped 33 percent from 2000 to 2003 (from 0.9 births per 1,000 females to 0.6), remained stable from 2003 to 2008, and then declined by a stunning 67 percent from 2008 through 2016 (from 0.6 to 0.2).
The birthrates for girls under 15 declined for all races and ethnicities, although the drop was the biggest among young black girls, falling from 2.4 to 0.5 births per 1,000.
Minnesota is among the states with the lowest birthrate — 0.1 — for this age group.
Other states with this low rate are Connecticut, Idaho, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Oregon and Utah. The states with the highest birthrates among girls 10-14 tend to be in the southern United States. The three states with the highest rates — 0.5 to 0.7 — were Louisiana, Mississippi and Delaware. The District of Columbia is also among that group.
Reasons for decline
The decline in pregnancies among girls under 15 is similar to that seen among girls aged 15 to 19. The birthrate in this older age group fell by 57 percent from 2000 to 2016.
CDC officials point to several reasons for these falling pregnancy rates: Young people are delaying when they first have sex. They are having less sex. And when they do have sex, they are more likely than in the past to use effective contraception.
Still, the birthrate for girls under 15 continues to be “one of the highest among industrialized countries,” the CDC report points out. In fact, only Romania has a higher rate, according to a 2015 study in the Journal of Adolescent Health. That same study also found that the U.S. had the highest pregnancy rate among industrialized countries for teens aged 15 to 19.
Just days before the CDC report was released, the Trump administration announced its new rules for funding programs to reduce teen pregnancies. Those rules do not require that teen-pregnancy programs produce strong evidence-based proof of their effectiveness. The rules also favor programs that encourage sexual abstinence.