Adolescent Childbearing


Teen pregnancy is generally unintended and has long-term negative effects on future physical, behavioral, educational, and economic development of both mothers and children.1, 2 Adolescent mothers are less likely than older mothers to finish high school or go on to college.3 Compared with babies of mothers in their 20s and early 30s, children born to teen mothers are more likely to be premature, have a low birth weight, or die as infants.4, 5 Children of adolescent mothers generally have poorer educational and behavioral outcomes than children born to older mothers and are more likely to initiate sex at an early age or to have a teen birth themselves.6, 7

According to preliminary data for 2013, the overall birth rate for adolescents aged 15–19 years was 26.6 births per 1,000 females, representing an 11 percent decline from 2012 (29.4 per 1,000) and a historic low for the nation (Figure 1). Birth rates for younger adolescents 15–17 years of age (12.3 per 1,000) declined by 13 percent while the rates for older adolescents, aged 18–19 years, declined by 8 percent to 47.4 per 1,000. Record lows were reached for both younger (15–17 years) and older teens (18–19 years). The teen birth rate has fallen by more than 55 percent since 1991 (61.8 per 1,000), when the long-term decline began.8 The rate for teens aged 15–17 years has fallen 67 percent and the rate for those aged 18–19 years has declined by 47 percent.

birth rates among adolescent females by age

Figure 1 Source

Overall, birth rates for teenagers aged 15–19 years decreased for all racial and ethnic groups from 2011 to 2012, with declines ranging from 3 percent for American Indian/Alaska Native teens to 5 percent for Asian/Pacific Islander teens and 6–7 percent for non-Hispanic White, non-Hispanic Black, and Hispanic teens (Figure 2). Birth rates for younger teens aged 15–17 years decreased for all race and ethnic groups in 2012, while rates for older teens aged 18–19 years decreased for all but American Indian/Alaska Native and Asian/Pacific Islander adolescents.

birth rates among adolescent females by age and race-ethnicity

Figure 2 Source

Despite observed decreases, profound disparities continue to persist in adolescent childbearing rates across racial and ethnic groups. Among teens aged 15–19 years, birth rates ranged from a low of 9.7 per 1,000 females for Asian/Pacific Islander teens to a high of 46.3 per 1,000 females for Hispanic teens, an approximately fivefold difference. The birth rate among non-Hispanic White 15- to 19-year-olds was more than twice as low as those of both Hispanic and non-Hispanic Black teens of the same age.

The Community Preventive Services Task Force recommends both group-based and youth development behavioral interventions to protect against the risk of HIV/AIDS, other sexually transmitted diseases, and teen pregnancy.9 Group-based interventions, referred to as Comprehensive Risk Reduction Interventions for Adolescents, have shown results in reducing sexual activity, unprotected sex, and sexually transmitted infections and are applicable across a variety of populations and settings. Youth development behavioral interventions in these programs are coordinated with community service. Social, emotional, or cognitive competence training promotes prosocial norms, improved decisionmaking, self-determination, and positive peer or role model bonding, while community service provides opportunities to gain membership in groups with explicit rules and responsibilities.10

Data Sources

Figure 1. Martin JA, Hamilton BE, Osterman MJK, et al. Births: final data for 2012. National Vital Statistics Reports. 2013;62(9).
Hamilton BE, Martin JA, Osterman MJK, et al. Births: Preliminary data for 2013. National Vital Statistics Reports. 2014;63(2).

Figure 2. Martin JA, Hamilton BE, Osterman MJK, et al. Births: final data for 2012. National Vital Statistics Reports. 2013;62(9).


1 Finer LB, Henshaw S. Disparities in rates of unintended pregnancy in the United States. Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health. 2006;38(2):90–96.

2 Pogarsky G, Thornberry TP, Lizotte AJ. Developmental outcomes for children of young mothers. Journal of Marriage and Family. 2006;68:332–344.

3 Hofferth SL, Reid L, Mott FL. The effects of early childbearing on schooling over time. Family Planning Perspectives. 2001;33(6):259–267.

4 Chen X-K, Wen SW, Fleming N, Demissie K, Rhoads GG, Walker M. Teenage pregnancy and adverse birth outcomes: a large population based retrospective cohort study. International Journal of Epidemiology. 2007;36:368–373.

5 Mathews TJ, MacDorman MF. Infant mortality statistics from the 2004 period linked birth/infant death data set. National Vital Statistics Report. 2007;55(14).

6 Lipman EL, Georgiades K, Boyle MH. Young adult outcomes of children born to teen mothers: effects of being born during their teen or later years. Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. 2011;50(3):232–241.

7 Levine JA, Pollack H, Comfort ME. Academic and behavioral outcomes among the children of young mothers. Journal of Marriage and Family. 2001;63(2):355–369.

8 Hamilton BE, Mathews TJ, Ventura SJ. Declines in state teen birth rates by race and Hispanic origin. NCHS data brief, no 123. Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics. 2013

9 The Community Guide. Preventing HIV/AIDS, other STIs, and teen pregnancy: comprehensive risk reduction interventions—task force finding and rationale statement. Accessed September 18, 2014.

10 The Community Guide. Preventing HIV/AIDS, other STIs, and teen pregnancy: comprehensive risk reduction interventions—task force finding and rationale statement. Accessed September 18, 2014.


Statistical Significance Test

Calculate the difference between two estimates:

Calculated Z-Test Result 0.9567433 Not statistically significant

We follow statistical conventions in defining a significant difference by a p-value less than 0.05 where there is a less than 5% probability of observing a difference of that magnitude or greater by chance alone if there were really no difference between estimates. The 95% confidence interval includes a plausible range of values for the observed difference; 95% of random samples would include the true difference with fewer than 5% of random samples failing to capture the true difference.

This website allows comparisons between two estimates using the independent z-test for differences in rates or proportions. This test is appropriate for comparing independent populations across years (e.g., 2011 versus 2012) or subgroups (e.g., Male versus Female) on corresponding measures. To the extent possible, the functionality of this application has limited estimate comparisons based on appropriate use of the independent z-test. However, some tables present subgroup categories within broader categories that will allow comparisons between non-independent populations (e.g., low birth weight and very low birth weight). Users should exercise caution when interpreting these test results, which will frequently overstate statistical significance.

For some tables, the website does not allow for comparisons between two estimates, even though the data represent independent populations. Generally, this is because the standard errors were not publicly available at the time this website was created.