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Teen birthrate reaches all-time low, CDC report says

The teenage birthrate has reached an all-time low. During the last 25 years the teen birthrate has plummeted from 62 births per one thousand teenage women to 24 per thousand, according to a report released this week by the CDC. The organization’s director of reproductive health, Dr. Wanda Barfield, joins NewsHour Weekend to discuss the findings.

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  • MEGAN THOMPSON, PBS NEWSHOUR WEEKEND ANCHOR:

    The teenage birth rate in the United States has hit an all-time low, according to a report this week from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC says during the last 25 years, the teen birth rate has fallen from 62 births for every 1,000 teenage women to 24 per 1,000.

    The drop is steepest among minorities in the past decade, with pregnancies down 44 percent for black teens and down 51 percent among Hispanics.

    Joining me now from Baltimore to discuss the findings is Dr. Wanda Barfield, the CDC's director of the Division of Reproductive Health.

    Dr. Barfield, why has this decrease been so dramatic?

  • DR. WANDA BARFIELD, CENTERS FOR DISEASE CONTROL AND PREVENTION:

    Well, on the eve of Teen Pregnancy Prevention Month, we've seen some pretty dramatic declines in teen births among black and minority teens. And as you know, we've seen nearly 50 percent decline for both black and Hispanics, and an overall decline for all teen bothers. And the reasons for this appear to be declines due to increases in teen pregnancy prevention efforts that are at the community level.

  • MEGAN THOMPSON:

    Why specifically the dramatic drop among minority teens?

  • DR. WANDA BARFIELD:

    So what we're seeing is that community-based interventions appear to be effective in preventing teen births. We're seeing declines in sexual activity among teens, as well as increases in the use of the most effective contraceptive methods available.

  • MEGAN THOMPSON:

    But minority teens still have about double the birth rate, right?

  • DR. WANDA BARFIELD:

    Yes. What we're seeing is that nationally, black and Hispanic teens have twice the rate of teen births as compared to whites, and in some states, it's as high as three-fold.

  • MEGAN THOMPSON:

    Can you talk a little bit about how sex ed plays a role in all of this? There was a recent Guttmacher Institute survey that found roughly 50 percent of American teens don't learn about birth control in school before having sex for the first time.

  • DR. WANDA BARFIELD:

    So sexual health education plays an important role in the prevention of teen pregnancy. Although the data that we have here at CDC in this report are not highlighted around sexual health education, what we do know from other CDC data is that teens are not getting access to sexual health information. So, teen reproductive health services play an important role in the prevention of teen pregnancy.

  • MEGAN THOMPSON:

    How does the teen birth rate differ from community to community?

  • DR. WANDA BARFIELD:

    Even states that may have low rates of teen pregnancy may have areas where we're seeing high rates of teen pregnancy within specific communities. So, as a result, it's really important that we look locally, that we engage communities in teen pregnancy prevention.

  • MEGAN THOMPSON:

    Dr. Barfield from the CDC — thank you so much for joining us.

  • DR. WANDA BARFIELD:

    Thank you, Megan.

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