The number of teen births in the U.S. dropped again in 2010, according to a government report, with nearly every state seeing a decrease. Nationally, the rate fell 9 percent to about 34 per 1,000 girls ages 15 through 19, and the drop was seen among all racial and ethnic groups. Mississippi continues to have the highest teen birth rate, with 55 births per 1,000 girls. New Hampshire has the lowest rate at just under 16 births per 1,000 girls.
This is the lowest national rate for teen births since the Centers for Disease Control began tracking it in 1940, and CDC officials attributed the decline to pregnancy prevention efforts. Other reports show that teenagers are having less sex and using contraception more often. Studies have backed this up. Researchers at the University of Washington in Seattle found that teenagers who received some type of comprehensive sex education were 60 percent less likely to get pregnant or get someone else pregnant. And in 2007, a federal report showed that abstinence-only programs had “no impacts on rates of sexual abstinence.”
But 37 states require sex education that includes abstinence, 26 of which require that abstinence be stressed as the best method. Additionally, research shows that abstinence-only strategies could deter contraceptive use among teenagers, thus increasing their risk of unintended pregnancy.
For example, take the states with the highest and lowest teen pregnancy rates. Mississippi does not require sex education in schools, but when it is taught, abstinence-only education is the state standard. New Mexico, which has the second highest teen birth rate, does not require sex ed and has no requirements on what should be included when it is taught. New Hampshire, on the other hand, requires comprehensive sex education in schools that includes abstinence and information about condoms and contraception.