Teen Pregnancies Rates Down, but Challenges Still Persist for Black and Hispanic Adolescents

teenpregnancyWhile recent research has shown that teen pregnancy rates in the United States have dropped across all demographics, disparities still exist when it come to race.

A study from Pew Charitable Trusts has found that although pregnancy and birth rates for black and Latina teenage girls has dropped even faster than it has for white teens over the past two decades, these groups are still twice as likely as their white counterparts to get pregnant during adolescence.

Teen pregnancies are typically unplanned, and they can cost U.S. taxpayers as much as $28 billion per year, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Adolescent Health.

To complicate matters, different states take different approaches to curbing teen pregnancy. Some, like Mississippi, which has the second highest teen pregnancy rates in the country, are targeting specific populations with teen pregnancy prevention programs, while others, like Kansas, are reducing the amount of access teens have to sex education.

However, resources beyond school exist. Teen pregnancy centers across the U.S. offer free pregnancy tests and other resources to adolescent girls.

“Organizations that partner with schools to offer after-school programs, mentoring or to teach valuable life skills to teens are a part of the solution for unplanned teen pregnancy,” says Andrea Nelson, Director of Youth Development, PregnantHelp by CareNet.

Non-Hispanic whites age 15 to 19 have a birth rate of 19 births per 1,000. For non-Hispanic black teens, that number jumps to 39 per 1,000, and for Latina girls, the figure is 42 for every 1,000.

American Indian and Alaskan natives also have a higher instance of teen pregnancy at 31 births for every 1,000 pregnancies. Only Asian and Pacific Islander teens have the lowest birth rate, at 9 per 1,000 births.

Declines in teen pregnancies since 2012 average around 10% for each racial group, and all groups have declined sharply since 1991 — all except for whites have decreased 60% or more.

In 2012, black and Hispanic teens accounted for more than half of all teen births across the country, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In addition to race, though, poverty and geography can also play big roles in teen birth rates. Rural teens have higher rates of pregnancy than those who live in urban or suburban areas.

Southern states, especially, have more widespread poverty and also have higher rates of HIV infection than other parts of the country. Education and access to contraception may also determine the likelihood of pregnancy among teen girls, according to the study.