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The U.S. rate of teenage births fell a staggering 31 percent from 1991 to 2002, a new study reveals. The rate declined from 62 births per 1,000 girls to 43 per 1,000, according to a study recently released. but the authors of the study, conducted by the Child Trends research center, said that’s still too high. “When we see that 18 percent of 15-year-olds will become mothers before they are out of their teens, it reminds us how far we still have to go,” said Angela Romano Papillo, the lead researcher.

The study also contained some startling revelations on regional and racial differences regarding teenage sexuality and motherhood.

New Hampshire had the nation’s lowest teen birth rate in 2001, with 21 births per 1,000 girls between ages 15 and 19.

The worst was Mississippi, with a teen birth rate more than three times higher, at 67 per 1,000.

Overall, Southern and Southeastern states had the highest teen birth rates, while New England states, except Rhode Island, had five of the six lowest rates. New Jersey and New York also fared well, with 29 and 32 births per 1,000 for the eighth- and ninth-lowest rates in the nation.

The futures of the 400,000 teens who had babies in 2002 could well be limited by their premature motherhood, said the authors.

Other findings included a marked racial difference as to whether girls and boys were equally likely to have sex early in life. Among teens who had sex before age 15, white girls were just as likely as boys to have sex. But black or Hispanic girls were less than half as likely as black or Hispanic males to do so. Hispanics had the highest teen birth rates, with nearly three times more than the 30 per 1,000 reported for whites. [New York Post, 12/01/03; 3Dec03, The Abstinence Clearinghouse]

A report from the National Center for Health Statistics also found a decline in multiple births of three or more and an increase in the number of women having Caesarean sections.

The study said the birth rate for mothers 15 to 19 declined 3 percent, to 49.6 births per 1,000 women in 1999 from the previous year. This rate has fallen 20 percent since 1991 and is at a record low. The 1999 rate broke a record of 50.2 births per 1,000 teenage females set in 1986. The records go back to 1940. [Chicago Tribune, 4/18/01] “Teen sexual activity has leveled off compared to the increases we saw in the previous couple of decades,” said demographer Ventura.