SACRAMENTO (AP) — The teen birth rate dropped to a new low in 2009, according to a state public health report released Tuesday.
Births to teenage mothers fell from 35.2 births for every 1,000 teens in 2008 to 32.1 in 2009, the most recent year available, according to the California Department of Public Health report.
“Early teenage childbearing has been recognized to have negative consequences for adolescent mothers, their children, and society as a whole,” said department Director Dr. Mark Horton. “For all these reasons, achieving a record low teen birth rate in California is an important accomplishment.”
Teen births peaked in 1991, with 70.9 per 1,000 adolescents.
The birth rate among Hispanic teens dropped more than other groups, but the Latina birth rate is highest among all ethnicities at 50.8. About 71 percent of Hispanic teen mothers in California were born in the U.S., while 29 percent were foreign-born.
Latinas may be more likely to be married in their late teens, but state officials said that didn’t explain the higher rate of teen births in that ethnic group.
There was a steeper decline in births to young women age 18 and 19 than younger teens, the report showed.
Kern, Tulare and Kings counties had the highest teen birth rates. Marin, Placer and Nevada counties had the lowest.
Federal officials are scheduled to release a report Wednesday showing that teen birth rates declined nationally.
State public health officials told the Los Angeles Times that sex education programs helped reduce teen birth rates at a time when adolescent health experts worried that gossip magazines and reality TV programs like MTV’s “16 and Pregnant” glamorize teenage mothers.
Other experts say the television shows confront teenagers with the reality of parenthood in an unstable economy.
The Washington-based National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy surveyed 1,000 teens who had seen “16 and Pregnant” last year and 82 percent said the show “helped them understand the challenges of teen pregnancy and parenting and how to avoid them.”
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