Teenage childbearing in the United States, 1960-1997

Am J Prev Med. 2000 Jul;19(1 Suppl):18-25. doi: 10.1016/s0749-3797(00)00169-0.


Teenage childbearing in the United States has declined significantly in the 1990s. Still the U.S. teen birth rate is higher than in other developed countries; in 1997 it was 52.3 births per 1000 women aged 15 to 19. A steep rise in teen birth rates in the late 1980s generated a great deal of public concern and a variety of initiatives targeted to reducing teen births. Data from the National Center for Health Statistics' National Vital Statistics System are used to review and describe trends and variations in births and birth rates for teenagers for the period 1960-1997. Teen birth rates were much higher in the early 1960s than at present; in fact, rates for 18- to 19-year-olds were double what they are currently. In the 1990s, birth rates for teenagers dropped for younger and older teenagers, with greater declines recorded for younger teens. While rates have fallen in all population groups, the greatest declines have been experienced by black teenagers, whose rates have dropped 24% on average. %Trends in teen births and birth rates since 1960 have been affected by a variety of factors. These include wide swings in the number of female teenagers, substantial declines in marriage among older teens, falling birth rates for married teens concurrent with rapidly rising birth rates for unmarried teens, and sharp increases in sexual activity among teens that have abated only recently, according to the National Center for Health Statistics' National Survey of Family Growth. This review article also tracks changes in contraceptive practice and abortion rates.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Birth Rate / trends*
  • Female
  • Hispanic or Latino
  • Humans
  • Marital Status
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy in Adolescence / ethnology
  • Pregnancy in Adolescence / statistics & numerical data*
  • United States / epidemiology