Teen Birth Rate Drops Again, but Progress Isn’t Victory

May 22, 2017

Teen Pregnancy, Teens

Last week, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) released remarkable news—preliminary data indicated that the teen birth rate for 2016 dropped by a whopping 9%. Coupled with the declines in 2015 (8%) and 2014 (another 9%), it is clear that we are now in the realm of the impossible—significant progress in reducing unplanned pregnancies among our teenage population. This issue, once considered intractable, now is not only seeing movement, but remarkable progress.

Importantly, the teen birth rate for older and younger teens also fell (by 8% and 11% respectively along with women in the younger and older twenties (4% and 2% respectively). 

For us, this news really hits home. Founded in 1996, 21 years ago, The National Campaign set out to reduce the teen pregnnacy rate by one-third—something considered if not impossible, then certainly impractical. We are proud and honored to report that we have reached and surpassed that objective, however, progress is not victory. The U.S. still has the highest teen pregnancy birthrate in the industrialized world. So as we look forward to our next 20 years, we have set three equally ambitious goals:

  1. Reduce teen pregnancy rates by 50% by 2026.
  2. Reduce unplanned pregnancy rates among women age 18-29 by 25% by 2026.
  3. Reduce racial/ethnic and socioeconomic disparities in teen and unplanned pregnancy rates by 50% by 2026.

Again, many will suggest that these goals are not only unlikely, but unrealistic. Instead, we suggest that audacious goals and big bets are the only way to effectively address critical social issues like teen and unplanned pregnancy.

Rates among non-Hispanic black and Hispanic teens remain more than twice as high as they are among non-Hispanic white teens. Unplanned pregnancy continues to be a challenge for young women. More than two thirds of all pregnancies among unmarried women between 20 and 29 years old are reported by the women themselves to be unplanned. And the majority of all unplanned pregnancies are among unmarried young women who live at or below the poverty line. These unplanned pregnancies pose a variety of health and socioeconomic challenges for these women—and by extension, their children.

We have seen the incredible progress teens and young women have made during the last 20 years and know that more can—and will—be done to affect this incredible important social issue. We know that giving all women the power to decide if, when, and under what circumstances to get pregnant gives them the opportunity to determine their future success and improves their lives. We at The National Campaign might have bold goals, but we are ready and willing to take on that challenge. We look forward to seeing another decrease next year. 

Authored by: Jessica Sheets Pika

Jessica Sheets Pika is the Director, Communications and Editorial Content at The National Campaign.  In that capacity, Jessica drives the communications strategy for the Campaign by curating, writing, and editing content; managing consultants and content contributors; and developing new activities and content areas for the organization.  She is the organization’s editor and manages the creation and publication of all Campaign materials.   In addition, Jessica manages the National Day to Prevent Teen Pregnancy/Teen Pregnancy Prevention Month, a national, digital call to action encouraging teens to think about how their lives might change if they were to become pregnant. Jessica also handles press initiatives, spearheads the design and creation of new National Campaign materials, and provides general communications and editorial guidance to all program areas of the Campaign.

Jessica joined The National Campaign in 2006 and has nearly 15 years of experience in the non-profit health care world.  She received a Bachelor’s degree in Communications and Political Science from Wake Forest University and lives in Northern Virginia with her husband, her adorable children, and their dog, Cora.

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