U.S. teen birth rate falls, everyone tries to take credit

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16 and pregnant

Some people say MTV's glamorizing the young, dumb, and full of spawn with its Teen Mom series, but it looks like birth rates among U.S. teens ages fifteen to nineteen are at their lowest in nearly seventy years. In 2009, there were 39.1 births for every 1,000 teens. That's still a lot of diapers and permanently interrupted childhoods, but significantly fewer than in 2008 when the number was six percent higher.

Different groups clamor to take credit for what's finally a good statistic. Personally, I'm on Planned Parenthood's team. Making baby-preventing contraceptives available for free or at low cost tends to… prevent babies. Still, some conservative groups point to the effectiveness of abstinence-only sex education. Those kids are finally learning to save themselves for marriage. (Well, the girls are. Boys don't need to worry about getting knocked up). 

My favorite hypothesis is that the recession may be the root. Being broke doesn't keep teens from having sex — it's free and can be done at home. But might it lead more to seek contraceptives or abortion to avoid the expense of childbirth and rearing? Do kids who don't support themselves care that much about what's going on with the economy?

Whatever the reason, the drop in teen pregnancies is a good thing. But the U.S. is still the industrialized nation with the highest teen-pregnancy rate. We've got a long way to go toward safe sexual attitudes and practices, but you know, baby steps.