Teen birth and abortion rates decrease, but ethnic and racial disparities persist

NEWS IN BRIEF — Posted Feb. 20, 2012

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The overall rates of births and abortions among U.S. teenagers in 2008 dropped to their lowest levels in nearly 35 years, due largely to improved contraceptive use, says a report issued Feb. 8 by the Guttmacher Institute. Despite the improvement, racial and ethnic disparities persist among black and Hispanic teens who have higher abortion and birth rates than white females.

Researchers found that in 2008, there were 434,758 births among females ages 15 to 19 compared with 616,280 births in this age group in 1972. The birth rate dropped from 62 births per 1,000 teens in 1972 to 40 births per 1,000 in 2008 (link). The abortion rate also decreased during that period from 19 abortions per 1,000 to 18 per 1,000.

In 2008, the birth rate was highest among Hispanics (70 births per 1,000 women) compared with blacks (60 births per 1,000) and whites (37 births per 1,000), the report said. Black teens had the highest abortion rate, 41 procedures per 1,000 women. The rate for Hispanic women was 20 abortions per 1,000. For whites, it was 13 per 1,000.

Researchers examined data on the U.S. population and births between 1972 and 2008 from the U.S. Census Bureau and National Center for Health Statistics. They also assessed information on abortions from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Guttmacher Institute, a nonprofit policy research organization that promotes reproductive health.

The report's authors encourage health professionals to ensure that all teenagers have information on the importance of using contraceptives to prevent pregnancy and that they have access to the products.

Note: This item originally appeared at

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