According to new data released by the Center of the Disease Control and Prevention, the teen birthrate in the U.S. is the lowest it’s been in 70 years.
2011 saw about 330,000 teen births which is 8 percent lower than 2010 and the lowest for a single year since 1946. The numbers from 2011 also show that the over downward trend in teen births that started in 1991 has not leveled off. Economists think it’s great that the teen birthrate is in decline, but warn not to get too excited. The ailing economy seems to be the most likely cause, and that the teen birth rate could start increasing again once the labor market bounces back.
The University of Maryland’s Associate Professor of Economics, Melissa Kearney, has seen a correlation between “high employment” and a lower teen birth rate. Although it has been difficult to pin down the exact reason why the two issues are connected there are some theories.
“It has been easier to think about a married couple in their thirties delaying childbirth by a year or half a year,” Kearney says. “A lot of these teens are 18, 19 years old, and it’s feasible that they might think it’s harder for them to support a baby. It might be harder for the to get financial support from their parents if their parents are out of work.”
Research has come out in the past linking declining birth rate to policy changes but Kearney says that she and her research partner have not found any recent changes that would explain the significant decades-long decline.
“When we see these announcements that the teen birth rate is down, advocates like to attribute it to their policy”— For example policies like abstinence or comprehensive sex education in schools, but the only policy that matters for the teen birth rate is Medicaid benefits.
“More and more girls can get family planning free through Medicaid even if they don’t qualify for Medicaid insurance,” Kearney pointed out. This causes a very small reduction in unplanned pregnancies.
Question: Do you think the decline in teen pregnancy is going to continue declining? Or will it pop back up as soon as the economy gains traction again?