Hispanic and Black Teen Birth Rates Two Times Higher Than White Teens

Births among Hispanic and black teens have dropped by almost half since 2006, according to a new analysis published by the CDC. This mirrors a substantial national decline: births to all American teenagers have dropped more than 40 percent within the past decade. Despite this progress, key challenges persist for many communities, according to the report.


While dramatic declines among Hispanic and black teens (51 percent and 44 percent, respectively) have helped reduce gaps, birth rates remain twice as high for these teens nationally compared with white teens. Published recently in a CDC Report, the new analysis highlights key community- and state-level patterns:


  • Dramatic racial and ethnic differences: In some states, birth rates among Hispanic and black teens were more than three times as high as those of whites.
  • Socioeconomic and education gaps: Higher unemployment and lower income and education are more common in communities with the highest teen birth rates, regardless of race.
  • Key in-state differences: In some states with low overall birth rates, pockets of high birth rates exist in some counties.
  • Regional patterns: Counties with higher teen birth rates were clustered in southern and southwestern states.


“The United States has made remarkable progress in reducing both teen pregnancy and racial and ethnic differences, but the reality is, too many American teens are still having babies,” said the CDC Director Tom Frieden, M.D., M.P.H. “By better understanding the many factors that contribute to teen pregnancy we can better design, implement, evaluate, and improve prevention interventions and further reduce disparities.”


Research has shown that teen pregnancy and childbirth cost U.S. taxpayers an estimated $9 billion each year and have negative health and social consequences. In the new report, CDC researchers analyzed national- and state-level data from the National Vital Statistics System (NVSS) to examine trends in births to American teens ages 15 to 19 years between 2006 and 2014. County-level NVSS data for 2013 and 2014 also offer a point-in-time picture of local birth rates. To better understand the relationship between key social and economic factors and teen birth rates, researchers examined data from the American Community Survey between 2010 and 2014.


Researchers highlight the importance of teen pregnancy prevention interventions that address socioeconomic conditions like unemployment and lower education levels, for reducing disparities in teen birth rates. State and community leaders can use local data to better understand teen pregnancy in their communities and to direct programs and resources to areas with the greatest need.


“These data underscore that the solution to our nation’s teen pregnancy problem is not going to be a one-size-fits-all – teen birth rates vary greatly across state lines and even within states,” said Lisa Romero, Dr.PH., a health scientist in the CDC’s Division of Reproductive Health and lead author of the analysis. “We can ensure the success of teen pregnancy prevention efforts by capitalizing on the expertise of our state and local public health colleagues. Together, we can work to implement proven prevention programs that take into account unique, local needs.”


Preventing teen pregnancy remains one of the CDC’s top priorities and the agency is working on a number of fronts. To address persistent disparities in teen births, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of Adolescent Health partnered with the CDC during 2010–2015 to fund community-wide initiatives in nine communities with some of the highest teen birth rates in the United States. This effort focused on black and Hispanic teens and integrated activities that addressed social determinants of health at the community level. Participating communities examined local data to develop their activities.


Examples of activities included presenting community-specific teen birth data to civic leaders; encouraging health care providers to offer evening and weekend hours and low-cost services to increase access; having teen-focused, culturally appropriate materials available during health care visits; and implementing evidence-based teen pregnancy prevention programs to reach teens of both sexes both inside and outside of schools (e.g., through Job Corps, alternative schools, churches, and community colleges).


Preliminary outcome data indicate that the community-wide initiatives were successful. Each community increased the number of teens who received reproductive health services and evidence-based interventions, as well as the proportion of teens who received moderately or highly effective contraceptive methods, including long-acting reversible contraception. Many aspects of the community-wide initiatives have been incorporated in 84 new five year Teen Pregnancy Prevention Replication grants awarded in 2015 by the Office of Adolescent Health to communities with the greatest need.


Teen childbearing can have negative health, economic, and social consequences for mothers and their children. Community-level interventions that address the social conditions associated with high teen birth rates might further reduce racial/ethnic and geographic teen birth disparities in the U.S. Ongoing efforts to integrate social determinants of health into teen pregnancy prevention programs play a critical role in addressing racial/ethnic and geographical disparities observed in teen births in the United States.


See the CDC Announcement


See the CDC Report


See also Medical Law Perspectives, January 2015 Report: Mothers, Infants, and Obstetrical Injuries: Labor and Delivery Liability


See the Medical Law Perspectives February 23, 2015, Blog Florida’s No-Fault Compensation System for Severe Birth Injury Claims Fails Again