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Philip N. Cohen

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Putting Teen Birth Rates on the Maps

Posted: 04/23/11 03:16 AM ET

The latest Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report is out, with a report on teen birth rates in the U.S. The press release announces, "U.S. Teen Birth Rate Fell to Record Low in 2009." (The report has information about birth control, virginity and sex education as well.)

The CDC's vital signs pamphlet still calls the rates "unacceptably high" and notes that they are "up to 9 times higher than in most other developed countries."* Within the U.S. we have about a 4-to-1 ratio in teen birth rates between the states with highest and lowest rates, as you can see from this map:

Birth rates for teens aged 15-19 years in the US in 2009. Birth rates among those teens, by state, were lowest in the Northeast and upper Midwest, and highest across the southern states. Rates ranged from <20.0 per 1,000 population in three states to >60.0 in four states. The national rate was 39.1 in 2009.

Teen birth rates are the number of births per 1,000 women ages 15 to 19.

For comparison, using the U.N. Demographic Yearbook, I made a map of Europe using the same color scale as the CDC's state map, though I had to add a few categories. (If you don't know which countries are which, why not take a little time to learn them?)


Light blue, 31-39; White, 16-29; Pink, 10-16; Red, 0-10; Black, unavailable.


You can see the high rates in the Eastern European countries of Russia, Ukraine, Romania and Bulgaria, with teen birth rates in the range of our l0w-middle states (like California). The high-middle European countries -- including Britain, Ireland, the Baltics and some Central European countries -- are comparable to our lowest-rates states (New England, etc.). Then the rest of Europe is off the U.S. chart, down to 4.3 in Switzerland.

*It's a little strange that teen births are considered a problem by definition, even though some of these teens are married, which should make their births officially not a problem.

Cross posted from the Family Inequality blog.