U.S. re­port finds teen births down, un­wed moth­ers up

The Washington Times Weekly - - Front Page - By Ch­eryl Wet­zstein

The U.S. teen birthrate fell again in 2005 to a new his­tor­i­cal low, how­ever, al­most all of th­ese births were to un­wed moth­ers, which helped push the per­cent of un­wed births to a record high.

The teen birthrate of 40.4 births per 1,000 women ages 15 to 19 was a mod­est 2 per­cent de­cline from 2004, ac­cord­ing to pre­lim­i­nary data from the Cen­ters for Dis­ease Con­trol and Pre­ven­tion (CDC).

It is the low­est teen birthrate recorded in 65 years of fed­eral record­keep­ing and marks a 35 per­cent drop since 1991, when there were 61.8 births per 1,000 teens.

How­ever, more than four out of five of teen births are to un­mar­ried women. When th­ese un­wed births are added to the more than half of births to women 20 to 24 that are also out of wed­lock, they help push the un­wed birthrate to a record 36.8 per­cent.

The rise in un­wed births is “dis­as­trous, about as big a leap as we’ve ever had,” said Robert Rec­tor, wel­fare an-


alyst at the Her­itage Foun­da­tion.

When wel­fare re­form passed in 1996, the un­wed birth fig­ures lev­eled off and seemed to sta­bi­lize for a while, Mr. Rec­tor said. But re­cent in­creases in th­ese num­bers “clearly show that the im­pact of wel­fare re­form is now vir­tu­ally zero, and we are go­ing back to the way things were be­fore wel­fare re­form.”

Fo­cus on the Fam­ily sex­ual health pol­icy an­a­lyst Linda Klepacki ap­plauded the “great news” about sink­ing teen birthrates but said the rise in un­wed child­bear­ing is a sign that “our cul­ture and poli­cies are not sup­port­ing mar­riage.”

“We know that more than any­thing stable mar­riages help to bring chil­drenand­moth­er­sout­of­poverty. So when we link this to eco­nomics, it’s very sad news,” she said.

Re­fer­ring to the teen birthrate, the “most im­pres­sive” de­cline was seen among black teens, said Brady Hamil­ton, a re­searcher at the CDC’s Na­tional Cen­ter for Health Sta­tis­tics and lead au­thor of the re­port.

The birthrate for black teens of high-school age fell 6 per­cent from 2004 to 2005, more than any other age or race group.

“In the last few years, the most dra­matic de­clines hap­pened among black girls,” said Brenda Rhodes-Miller, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Wash­ing­ton, D.C. Cam­paign to Pre­vent Teen Preg­nancy, who noted with plea­sure that latest data show the Dis­trict’s teen-preg­nancy rate has also fallen, to 79.4 preg­nan­cies per 1,000 teens.

Still, “we haven’t seen the same kind of de­clines in Lati­nas, so we’ve got to re­dou­ble our ef­forts to make sure we reach all th­ese boys and girls with the mes­sage that there’s some­thing bet­ter for you to do in your teen-age years than be­come a par­ent,” she said.

Sarah S. Brown, di­rec­tor of the Na­tional Cam­paign to Pre­vent Teen Preg­nancy, said the new de­clines in the teen birthrate “give this na­tion some­thing else to be grate­ful for this Thanks­giv­ing week.”

But the na­tion should “re­sist the in­cli­na­tion to con­sider this prob­lem solved and move onto some­thing new,” she said.

“Teen child­bear­ing in the United States re­mains far higher than in other coun­tries, and de­spite the im­pres­sive strides the na­tion has made on this is­sue, ado­les­cent child­bear­ing still costs tax­pay­ers at least $9.1 bil­lion an­nu­ally,” said Mrs. Brown, cit­ing a re­cent cam­paign re­port on pub­lic costs of teen child­bear­ing.

Other high­lights of the CDC’s pre­lim­i­nary birth re­port:

The to­tal num­ber of births in 2005 rose 1 per­cent to 4,140,419. Of th­ese, 1,525,345 were to un­wed moth­ers. The num­ber of births to teen moth­ers was 421,123.

The de­cline in teen births was due al­most en­tirely to de­clines among girls 15 to 17; birthrates among those 18 to 19 and 14 and younger were es­sen­tially un­changed.

The birthrate for women 20 to 24 in­creased by less than 1 per­cent, while the birthrate for women 25 to 29 — the most com­mon age for moth­er­hood — re­mained un­changed.

Birthrates among women in their 30s and 40s con­tin­ued to rise, reach­ing rates not seen since the 1960s.

The rate of Cae­sarean sec­tions rose 4 per­cent, to 30.2 per­cent of all births.

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