The U.S. teen birth rate hit an all-time low in 2009 — a decline that stunned experts say is partly because of the economy. The birth rate for teenagers fell to 39 births per 1,000 girls, ages 15 through 19, according to a government report released Tuesday. It was a 6 percent decline from the previous year, and the lowest rate since health officials started tracking the data in 1940.
Some believe popular culture has played an important role. The issue of teen pregnancy got a lot of attention through Bristol Palin, the unmarried pregnant daughter of former GOP vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin. Teen pregnancy is also cast in a harsh light by “Sixteen and Pregnant,” a popular MTV reality show which first aired in 2009 and chronicles the difficulties teen moms face.
Also, health officials and advocates may deserve some credit. For decades, they and others have been emphasizing the hazards of teen pregnancy, including higher high school dropout rates among the mothers and higher odds for health and other problems for their children. The cumulative effect of public health campaigns may have played an important role in pushing down the teen birth rate.
We’re still grateful for the teen-moms who have had the courage to raise some of us, but it’s nice to know that more young girls are getting the chance to finish their education and are taking the time to consider parenthood.