According to Child Trends, the teen birth rate rose in 26 states. Alaska showed the highest increase in teen birth rates (insert joke here), with a whopping 19% increase.
The states with the highest birth rates, Arizona, Arkansas, Mississippi, New Mexico and Texas, all had increases, including a 13% increase in Mississippi. States with the four lowest teen birth rates, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, and Connecticut, all showed non-significant changes. Check the 2004 presidential election results map and tell me if you made the same association I did.
I was disappointed in the discussion of the increase by Child Trends and The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy. The author, Kristin Anderson Moore, PhD, spends 3 long, detailed pages discussing how “high fertility groups” such as Hispanics, African Americans, Mexican immigrants and African immigrants have higher teen birth rates.
“Considering how modest these mid-decade changes in immigration were, it seems unlikely
that these changes could fully account for the change in the teen birth rate. Moreover, immigration
from Mexico and other high-fertility countries was common during the years the teen birth
rate was declining. Also, the increase in the teen birth rate between 2005 and 2006, as noted above,
occurred among blacks and whites, as well as Hispanics, so immigration from Latin America is
unlikely to be the entire explanation.”
But, she then goes on to defend how the influence of these factors on the increase in teen birth rates cannot be ruled out.
She spends one short paragraph talking about abstinence-only education. She says it has not been shown to work, but does not say that abstinence-plus education HAS been shown to decrease teen pregnancy dramatically. She spent one sentence on the “small, but statistically significant” increase in the amount of girls who report using no birth control at all the last time they had sex. 2% of all 9 million teenage girls is not a small amount. She spends one sentence on the availability of contraceptives to low income teens. She spends about the same amount of time discussing increasing contraception costs.
The advisory council seems stacked with apparently non-partisan people from a variety of institutions, including the Guttmacher Institute. Strangely enough, the board of directors includes Whoopi Goldberg. (Maybe I should send her a copy of this blog). On the The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy website it says that 25% of the increase is due to the increased proportion in the population of the high fertility (see above = brown) racial/ethnic groups. Correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t 25% of 3% actually less than 1%, which would not be a significant increase at all? How about, 75% of the increase (you know, the statistically significant part) cannot be blamed on brown people?
The closest they could come to recommending a policy change was this roundabout statement:
“Although teen pregnancy and birth rates have declined by about one-third since the early 1990s, many
recent signs—including trends in teen sex and contraceptive use—seemed to have stalled or perhaps gone
in the wrong direction. Let’s hope this sobering news on teen births serves as a wake up call to
policymakers, parents, and practitioners that all our efforts to convince young people to delay pregnancy and parenthood need to be more intense, more creative, and based more on what we know works.”
“What we know works”?? And what would that be? The comprehensive sex education program that shall not be named?
Sigh. Ideology should not trump good health policy, especially if everyone can agree that the outcomes suck.