Progress Made in Reducing Teen Pregnancy

Progress Made in Reducing Teen Pregnancy

Published On: 

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Impacting social problems on a wide scale is challenging, but here’s one issue where we’ve made significant progress: Teen pregnancy. For the past two decades, teen pregnancy rates have been declining across the nation and among all our major racial and ethnic groups.

Rate of Teen PregnancyIn the Mid-Hudson Valley region, the rate of females ages 15-19 becoming pregnant fell from 5.2% in 2000 to 3.1% in 2011. That might not sound dramatic, but it’s a decline of 40%, or 450 fewer pregnant teens each year.

The state and each county in our region experienced a similar reduction, though the rate remains a bit higher in Orange County at nearly 4%. National statistics are only available through 2008, but they tell a similar story, with a decline of nearly 20% to 7%.

Nationally, the rates for African American and Hispanic teens are about double the level for white teens, but those have been going down, too. In 2008, the teen pregnancy rate was nearly 12% for African-American girls and 11% for Hispanic girls, compared to 4% for white girls. Since 1990, the rates fell 48% among African-American girls, 34% among Hispanic girls and 50% among white girls.

Researchers believe the biggest reason the rates are down is increased use of contraception. Some also point to decreased sexual activity, especially among younger teens, but contraception is seen as the larger factor.

Of course, in individual lives and in our communities, teen pregnancy remains a significant problem. In our region, pregnancy rates among teens 15-19 are higher in some of our cities: 14% in Poughkeepsie, 10% in Newburgh and 8% in Middletown and Kingston in 2011. But even here, there have been big decreases, with declines of more than 20% in the rates for Poughkeepsie and Newburgh from 2006 through 2011, and a 40% drop in Kingston.

Surveys by the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy have consistently found that when it comes to making decisions about sex, both teens and adults agree that parents have the most influence – above friends, teachers, religious leaders or the media. In the latest survey (2012), 38% of teens named parents as most influential as did 41% of adults.

Further, teens and adults are also in agreement that it would be easier for teens to postpone sex if they were able to have open, honest conversations with their parents – 87% of teens and 90% of adults said so.

All these findings suggest that public education and parent interaction have had and can continue to have a significant impact on the problem of teen pregnancy. While we may sometimes feel as though we’ve lost the ability to impact large, social problems, the decline in teen pregnancy is one example telling us that we haven’t.

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