Teen pregnancy rates highest in South, but why?

Although overall teen pregnancy rates are down, there is a large disparity in rates between states. Southern states are often the highest, reports the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Why would some Southern pregnancy rates be higher? Some health advocates believe it’s because sex ed in Southern states often stresses abstinence-only instead of being comprehensive sex ed programs.

From The Hill:

“Whatever the reason, the regional disparities are stark. In Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Vermont, for instance, 2008 birth rates were less than 25 per 1,000 teens aged 15 to 19, CDC found. In the same year, Arkansas, Mississippi, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas all had rates topping 60 per 1,000 teens.”

“Mississippi had the country’s highest rate (65.7), CDC says, while New Hampshire had the lowest (19.8).”

“Leslie Kantor, national education director of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said the report ‘makes it crystal clear that the teen birthrate is lower in states that provide students with comprehensive, evidence-based sex education. ’ ”

” ‘The report demonstrates that the surest way to reduce teenage pregnancy is to provide young people with comprehensive, medically accurate sex education, and doing so is especially urgent for African-Americans and Latino teens, who are getting pregnant more frequently than other young people,’ “

The article says a report from the Guttmacher Institute, a women’s reproductive health groups, agrees with this assessment. All five states with the highest teen birth rates require that abstinence be stressed when taught as part of sex or HIV education. Of the four states with the lowest birth rates, none required abstinence be stressed to students.

The federal government announced earlier this month that it will grant $375 million to 28 sex ed programs that have been proven to lower pregnancy rates and move away from abstinence-only type education plans.

From the Associated Press:

“Beginning this school year, a five-year, $375 million grant is being divided among 28 programs that have been proven to lower the pregnancy rate among participants, no matter their focus. Many programs distribute condoms, but about half also aim to boost teens’ academics, get them involved in extracurricular activities and even improve their parents’ job status.”

“Advocates believe this “above the waist” approach gives kids the tools to help them succeed in school and make better life decisions, especially about sex.”

” ‘There’s a growing realization that we have to talk to young people about relationships. It’s not just body parts,’ said Bill Albert, the chief program officer for The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy. ‘It’s saying, ‘What are your goals?’ and helping young people understand what they need to do to get there.’ ”

“That theory, which has become popular in the safe-sex community in the past decade, will replace the abstinence-centered talks funded by a Republican Congress in the late 1990s and later under President George W. Bush to the tune of $1.5 billion.”

“Critics contend there is little proof those programs lowered the teen pregnancy rate or that participants were less likely to have sex. In 2007, Mathematica Policy Research, an independent government contractor, released a study showing students in abstinence-only programs are no more likely to abstain from sex, delay having sex or have fewer partners than students who received no sex education at all.”

So what do you think? Do you think there is a link between higher pregnancy rates in the South and abstinence-only programs? Which type of sex education programs do think work best? What do you think of new approaches such as stressing goals for the future and how to get there or involving kids in extracurricular activities so there aren’t empty afternoon to just have sex?

Is this a fair rap for the South?

99 comments Add your comment

guy

October 21st, 2010
12:40 pm

education. the south has some of the lowest educational rankings and the highest teen pregnancy rate. this is not a coincidence.

dawgydawg47

October 21st, 2010
12:46 pm

I agree with guy. I think it is more of a socio-economic issue. It’s just another example of our government’s out of control spending.

Metro Coach

October 21st, 2010
12:49 pm

Does the study factor in number of births to determine pregnancy rate? Or just how many teens get pregnant? If they use actual births, then abortion rates will factor in. I would wager that the South has less of those than other, more liberally inclined regions do.

bunch of yentas

October 21st, 2010
1:02 pm

Causation and correlation are often not related.

I do think comprehensive sex education can make a difference and probably plays some factor, but there are also other reasons.

One such reason is immigration. Most hispanic immigrants are Catholic. The Catholic church still teaches its members archaic ideas on population growth and birth control.

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Oh, c'mon...

October 21st, 2010
1:05 pm

…we all know the answer to this yet cannot say or write it because political correctness and charges of racism – please break down the finding by nationality, race, and ethnic group and the picture clears up appreciably…

Dingy

October 21st, 2010
1:08 pm

Metro Coach, you read my mind. It would be interesting to compare the “pregnancy rates” with the number of teenage abortion rates by state. I would posit that the non-South (i.e., Bible Belt) states have lower abortion rates overall. The stigma of an abortion is much worse in the South than a teenage parent.

I also wonder how much comes from the South and thier agrarian roots. That is, a century ago, residents tended to marry young and have children to “tend the fields”. So, it has been passed generationally that having children at a young (i.e., teen) age is acceptable. That’s probably a stretch, but you never know.

Dingy

October 21st, 2010
1:08 pm

Check that – meant non-South states have HIGHER abortion rates. Sorry for the typo.

DebbieDoRight

October 21st, 2010
1:16 pm

It’s just another example of our government’s out of control spending

Teen pregnancies are the goverment’s fault? HUH? You tea baggers are WAY over the top!! :roll:

Metro Coach

October 21st, 2010
1:18 pm

The study also includes 18 and 19 year olds. For the purpose of this study the age limit should’ve been 17, because many people start marrying at 18 or 19 and therefore the term “teen pregnancy rate” doesn’t apply.

Drew

October 21st, 2010
1:19 pm

I love the way ‘Southerners’ make up all different reasons for this subject. Bottom line is…y’all are too ignorant to realize abstinance don’t do a bit o’ good when teenagers are roarin’ and they ain’t been schooled that doin the ‘wild thing’ w/o precautions is gonna meake more little southerners…Nature ain’t gonna change cuz someone sez “don’t be foolin’ around”..HAH!! Hormones rule and y’all be fools…

bunch of yentas

October 21st, 2010
1:20 pm

I looked it up and there does seem to be higher abortion rates in the North East than in the South East, but abortions come no where close to expalaining these descrepancies.

As to “Oh C’mon”, Caucasion and African American birthrates have both slowed over the past 25 years and are about even today. Hispanic birth rates are much higher.

The Catholic Church holds the key to stopping a lot of this by just coming out and admitting that condoms are effective birth control and prevent disease. But the Pope is still singing that same old song.

guy

October 21st, 2010
1:24 pm

yentas, wouldnt you expect the birthrates in the southwest to be the highest if your hispanic theory is correct?

SuwaneeMommy

October 21st, 2010
1:24 pm

I grew up in California’s San Joaquin Valley, which has the highest teen pregnancy rate in the state–then and now. I saw several of my friends get pregnant and have their babies while we were in high school.

What will stop girls from getting pregnant is having reachable goals for education, sports, drama, music, dance, military, or career. Nothing will prevent those goals faster than getting pregnant. When any young person finds something he or she is talented in, and wants to pursue, they can focus their energy on that AND identify the things that will hold them back from that.

I’ve observed that it’s also a matter of self-esteem. Girls who think they need a “man” to complete their life are largely the ones who ended up pregnant, in my experience. Those of us who were too involved with choir, band, debtate, YMCA, church or whatever developed self-esteem from being recognized for our own accomplishments. I also think a lot of this is because people are encouraged to pair off at way too early an age. There is far too much pressure put on kids to be in relationships.

By the way, the biggest problem with teen pregnancy in my hometown in California, besides the babies having babies, was that they were getting knocked up not by their peers, but by older men. I’m talking a 25-year-old man with a 15-year-old girl. My county’s DA had no problem pursing statutory rape charges against these creeps. I wish this were enforced more.

Photius

October 21st, 2010
1:24 pm

Although I love living in the South, it is sooo hick-ville and backwards in many ways. My thoughts:

- The South has been and always will be last in education; these people don’t get it and never will on so many levels of education, including pregnancy education.
- Bible belt influence everywhere – just say no – save yourself until marriage – and don’t deal with reality
- Bible belt + ignorance + low education = out of wed lock babies
- Morons breed more morons; they are grandparents by the time they are 38 and generation after generation keeps doing the same dumb decisions without ever learning from mistakes. Their grandbabies breed a lot of morons…. And the downward spiral continues….

bunch of yentas

October 21st, 2010
1:27 pm

Guy, The birth rates are very high in south western states, so yes, i expect it and it is.

“In the same year, Arkansas, Mississippi, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas all had rates topping 60 per 1,000 teens”

I am not trying to imply, although I admmit it appears that I am, that this issue is purely catholicism, but it is a factor.

There are also economic factors in play here as well.

Monica

October 21st, 2010
1:34 pm

Debbiedoright, I think that the “teabaggers” were stating that the federal goverment’s solution to any problem is to throw money at it. I don’t think anyone’s blaming the government for the teen pregnancy rate.

I don’t really buy the Catholic Church explanation because the vast majority of southerners are not Catholic. Kids know plenty about birth control; they are just too lazy to use it, or they think getting pregnant only happens to other people.

Since when do New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Texas qualify as southern states?

anonymous

October 21st, 2010
1:35 pm

When you allow Planned Parenthood to teach kids all the kinky ways to have sex, you must then ask, “Why are they having sex?”….

Besides…Planned Parenthood comes into schools even though they have ties to racists in their founding…why? Watch the film Maafa21 for details on that http://www.maafa21.com

guy

October 21st, 2010
1:39 pm

yentas, monica hit my point. im sure hispanics and catholics are part of the problem, but given the substantially higher concentration of them in the southwest, they alone dont explain why the teen pregnancy rates are highest in the southeast. i still say it’s the education.

LD

October 21st, 2010
1:58 pm

African Americans birth rates have slowed down???? Tell that to a young African American girl I know that is all of 24 years old with 6 kids. Yes, 6. She also recieves 1,200 a mth in food stamps (which she sells half for half on the dollar), pays only $168 a month on a $1,500 mortgage (thanks to hud), recieves welfare, medicaid and never worked a day in her life. She also drives a nice car and is always dressed to the nines. Her youngest is 8 mths and she just told me she thinks she’s prego again :(

The Truth

October 21st, 2010
2:11 pm

Comparing Georgia, Alabama, Texas, South Carolina, Florida, and Mississippi to the wealthiest states in America? Quoting “Planned Parenthood”? Come on. Let’s compare abortion rates in teens in the regions or birth control use in teens. Here is the deal, wealthy parents put their girls on birth control and poor parents simply cannot afford it. Thus pregnacy strikes poorer people far more often than middle and upper classes. Do some research that isn’t so blanketed and biased. You can educate all you want but if the parents and kids aren’t listening or making better personal decisions, what does it matter?

abc

October 21st, 2010
2:17 pm

I think demographics of the states compared have a lot to do with it. Percentage of black and Hispanic population in Southern states is anywhere from double to triple that of New England. National statistics of teen and unwed mothers goes along the same racial lines. One could say that education is the key, and those races should be especially targeted for that education, but exposure to information is different from acquiring knowledge and using it. You can lead a horse to water, etc.

JJ

October 21st, 2010
2:39 pm

I think it has to do with the parents. My daughter has three friends, two under the age of 19, who are either pregnant or have had a child. Out of these three girls, not one of them has a good home life. One girl lives in a VERY affluant (sp) neighborhood, million dollar homes, fancy cars, and her parents leave her for weeks at a time, while they go off to europe, Hawaii, etc. I was appalled when she came over to my house, asking to spend the night and eat dinner with us. I asked where her parents were, and she said Europe for two weeks….WTF?????

Another, parents were divorced, and mom is too busy dating, trying to find her man….so obviously she wasn’t around to discuss this with her child.

And the third, well, she seems to have it all together, although she did drop out of high school to have her first child, and is now pregnant with her 2nd. She is 21. However, she did marry the baby daddy, they both work full time jobs, and they just recently bought a house, and are now expecting their second child.

I think these times are very scary for girls, the teen years, and they really need some kind of consistent parenting….or just to know that a parent is there for them. All my daughter’s friends know they can come talk to me any time….even if she is at school, they can come by my house and talk if they need to.

I guess that’s why I didn’t date a lot while raising my child. She was #1, and I needed to be there for her…..

Oh, c'mon...

October 21st, 2010
2:41 pm

…thanks LD and abc for saying out loud what I was hinting at – the largest statistic that gets overlooked, or just plain left out, is percentage of a race/ethnic group per capita to the overall regional population per capita, thus skewing the results so that the writers APPEAR to be non-biased, thus making it a REGIONAL problem rather than a race/ethnic group problem…

mom of 3

October 21st, 2010
2:46 pm

This is a sad topic. 2 out of 3 of my daughters were on birth control when they were in high school. 1 was on the pill due to medical conditions with her period and actually starting taking them in the 5th grade. The other we had a discussion and I knew where we needed to go. Teenagers are going to have sex.
Again, we must go back to whose responsibility is it? It is not planned parenthood, sex ed, the church or anyone else but the parents. So many think if I put my daughter on the pill then I am saying please have sex. No, you are saying if it happens you are protected from an unwanted birth.
My 1st husband died several years back. When I started seeing someone my daughter, at the time was 20 yrs old, came into my room with a condom and said, Ok mom, do you know what to do with this. I died laughing but it made me realize that I had taught my daughters to protect themselves and take responsibility.
It’s time parents took action and became parents. You aren’t only talking about pregnancy you are talking life and death now. Sex has become more scary that the scare of getting pregnant.

Jesse's Girl

October 21st, 2010
2:58 pm

While abstinence is what we would all….realistically..love our children to practice…lets get real please. I harbor absolutely no illiusions that my children will abide by this wish. I have already had the talk with my 13 and 12 year old daughters and my 7 year old son will hear the same thing when it becomes necessary. My children live in totally different age than I did. Its more difficut to be a kid and stay a kid these days. There are many ways to lose one’s innocence in 2010….and that isn’t just relegated to sex. Teach your children what the heck a condom is please. Teach them that sex isn’t some mystery that needs to be discovered. Teach them the real life issues that accompany the act itself. Pregnancy is the least of the evils that can befall one who engages in it. Be parents in every sense of the word…..educate your children about sex. Don’t be pansies and shy away from it just because it makes you uncomfortable. How uncomfy will you be when your child is having a child and is also infected with Aids or any of the other myriad of diseases that can be contracted?

It would also be interesting to see where these results fall on racial/socio-economic lines…..

TallMom

October 21st, 2010
3:06 pm

Several years ago I worked with teen parents in “perfect” East Cobb…people I came in contact with were SHOCKED to learn that more teen parents were white, than all the other races COMBINED. Wake up people…while at one time this MAY have been a race issue, those days are long gone….can I tell you what it looked like seeing a THIRTEEN YEAR OLD CHILD walking in carrying her 4 month old baby? Yep…she got pregnant at TWELVE…the daughter of upstanding East Cobb parents.

Start teaching protection along with abstinence and we MIGHT have a fighting chance of helping our teen girls.

Hey, TallMom...

October 21st, 2010
3:10 pm

“Several years ago” East Cobb was more white, so I would expect the result to be skewed there – do some research in “today’s” East Cobb and I am willing to bet the results are completely different…

Duh

October 21st, 2010
3:19 pm

Southern states pregnancy rates are higher because it has higher percentages of blacks and hispanics. I know this isn’t the “p.c.” answer, but its the correct answer.

The “abstinance programs” have very little to do with the reason. Its purely race attributable.

JJ

October 21st, 2010
3:19 pm

TallMom – I have a friend who’s niece had a baby at 13……she is now 17 with a four year old. They tried to tell her to put the baby up for adoption, but you know 13 year olds know more than we do. So instead of giving up the baby to a better home, she is 17, has a 9th grade education, can’t get a job, and is on food stamps and gov’t assistance, living with her grandmother (who is an alcoholic). Oh well, the apple didn’t fall too far from the tree, as her mother is a druggie and has been in and out of jail numerous times in the last 7 years……VERY sad…..

Tee

October 21st, 2010
3:26 pm

Well, LD. I am black and a Mississippian and was a virgin until the age of 25. Had my first and ONLY child during marriage. My sister is 25, has no children, and is pharmacy graduate student. The statistics show upwards of 70 out ONE THOUSAND which means that 930 out of 1000 are more like my sister and me. #letsapplaudthepositive

[...] and the lowest in the Northeast and the upper Midwest. Atlanta Journal-Constitution considers what makes the difference) (Los Angeles [...]

TechMom

October 21st, 2010
3:57 pm

I was a teen mom. What do I think would have prevented me from getting pregnant? Being occupied. I wasn’t the typical teen mom; I was a straight-A student and very involved in school and other activities but it happened over the summer when I had nothing better to do. Seriously, it’s the only decent excuse I’ve got. I started sneaking out with friends and hooked up with a guy friend. I was in that mindset of “it won’t happen to me” and was shocked when it did. I was intelligent but oblivious.

I did decide to keep my son and I do think I’ve done quite well but I think that I’m atypical. Most teen moms would be better off if 1) they didn’t get pregnant in the first place but 2) if they gave the baby up for adoption. Becoming a parent completely changes your life (as it should) but most teenagers are not capable of committing to the type of lifestyle change being a parent requires and ultimately the result is a vicious cycle of poverty because they don’t get an education and aren’t able to support themselves and their children.

P.S. My solution to teenagers having multiple children – no more epidurals! Seriously, natural childbirth was enough to make me not want to have sex again until I was married and permanently impacted my outlook on having more children ever!

Kate

October 21st, 2010
4:04 pm

As much as I hate to say it, race and the racial make up of the south, does play a factor in these numbers. However, its not the only explanation. We live in a society that sexualizes young girls at an increasingly early age. With every generation you find more and more young women under the belief that the only thing that makes them special or worthwhile is their sexuality. Kids are bombarded with bad influences from the internet, TV, their peers and sometimes even the adults in their lives, giving them a very skewed idea of reality. That’s why its so important for parents to talk to their kids about sex. No you can’t follow your teenagers around day and night and ultimately, this is a decision they will have to make for themselves, but getting some honest, intelligent advice from their parents can make all the difference in the world. Children really do look to their parents for guidance, even though they may give you hell for it.

Just for the record, the Catholic church, like virtually every other religion, also teaches that premarital sex is a sin. Regardless of what they’ve been taught at church, virtually all kids know how babies are made and if they’re going to be sexually active they had better take precautions.

THE CATHOLIC HAMMER

October 21st, 2010
4:09 pm

The Catholic Church is “part of the problem”?

What’s the problem with children?

What’s the problem with young women becoming mothers? It’s what they do.

However, the young men need to become fathers.

Betty

October 21st, 2010
4:38 pm

TechMom–Thanks for sharing–Really! It’s interesting to hear you say you were bored and didn’t have enough to do because I’ve also read/heard that many teens start drinking for the same reason. You didn’t mention that alcohol played any roll in your pregnancy but since it does play a roll in many unplanned preganancies I’d love to see stats on alcohol or drug use and teen pregnancies.

FCM

October 21st, 2010
4:39 pm

@ Metro Coach I wondered the same thing…what was the abortion rate and how do those factor.

Here is a quote from the CDC paper “This report examines disparities in teenage birth rates by state and among the largest racial and ethnic population groups.” SO since it is birth rates I am thinking you are right on the money. Especially since the south is considered to be pro-life.

Betty

October 21st, 2010
4:39 pm

ehhh, role not roll….oh and I love TechMom’s epidural solution!

FCM

October 21st, 2010
4:43 pm

TWG I have to answer your last question on is it a fair rap for the south? SInce the abortion rates are not presented we cannot say…and that means the blog has a bias or slant too. I am surprised you did not present those figures to make it a fair question. In fact it makes me sad to think some will continue to sterotype the south with things like this as their “evidence”.

(OK I am sure MJG or somebody will slam me for saying that).

miracle

October 21st, 2010
4:45 pm

miracle

October 21st, 2010
4:48 pm

Heather

October 21st, 2010
5:00 pm

Catholics are not the only pro-life religion. Southern Baptists and other forms of Christianity do not condone abortion or premarital sex. Also, in regard to abortion, with Missisippi having the highest birth rate, it would seem that access to abortion would have some effect. I can’t imagine Mississippi, especially the rural areas, having much access.

Casey

October 21st, 2010
5:06 pm

I’m a Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner who treats a lot of pregnant teenagers in the deep south. The reason is cultural (and I do not mean black or white). In the south, you are considered to be the odd person if you are not married with 3 kids by the time you are 25. I actually had a 27 year old patient who was very upset she had fertility issues because she wanted to have all of her kids by the time she was 25. The focus in the south is getting married and/or having children very early in life.

outspoken1

October 21st, 2010
5:09 pm

not sure why I am the only one that “get’s it”….BUT, girls just LOVE sex. I grew up in Alabama in the 70’s. It was easy to score, score and score. Don’t really remember any girl that wouldn’t.
I am not saying that was good but I am just saying, people have sex because it feels soooo good.

motherjanegoose

October 21st, 2010
5:14 pm

@ Casey, I respect your opinion because you do seem to have medical expertise that I, for one, am lacking.

I am interested in the idea you present, as there are very rural and perhaps more family directed after HS areas of the south and then there are the cities. Even inner city kids may have a different opinion of what is expected than perhaps the suburbs, where I live.

Kinda like sayin’ all southerners like sweet tea, collard and grits.

I have never heard the 3 kids and 25 year old rule with my own two, who are in college. Lord knows, my son would need to get rolling as he is 23 now and, so far, DB has not mentioned his wife….LOL. Any news DB?

DB

October 21st, 2010
5:35 pm

@MJG: the wedding was lovely, wish you had been there . . . :-p

As to the topic — education, education, education, goals, goals, goals, self-confidence and self-respect. If you don’t feel that your goals are attainable, then the education is useless, and is trivialized. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the states with the highest pregnancy rates are also the ones with the lowest educational accomplishments. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with teaching abstinence ALONG WITH all the other things. Why not? It’s a perfectly valid form of birth control — keep your legs closed, and you don’t have to worry about pregnancy and STDs. But if that fails, “Wrap That Wienie!”

And the states that are noted are also know for high percentage of rural communities. My daughter had a good friend in a rural community about 60 miles from Atlanta, and was shocked at the change in her in high school. She went from a nice kid in middle school to hanging out “drinkin’ and screwin’” every weekend, because “there was nothing else to do where they lived.” My daughter started to pull away from her in the last year or so, but the other girl visited her a few weeks back and they planned to go a party. On the way to the party, the friend shocked my daughter by saying, “So, are we going to be all moral or are we going to have fun and see how many guys we can screw tonight?” Her contention was that as long as she got checked out by a doctor every six months, it didn’t matter. Definitely a case of “looking for love in all the wrong places.” My daughter had her drop her off at a MARTA station on the way to the party, came home and “unfriended” her on Facebook. Sad, but my daughter learned long ago that you are judged by the company you keep. *sigh*

Mark

October 21st, 2010
6:07 pm

Not originally from the south but being stationed here from due to the military I have a different perspective. Kids are raised differently here. Different values. Many I know go to church every Sunday and claim to have strong beliefs BUT live like heathens when church is over. Not the way I was raised. Now to stir up everyone, where I come from the minority population is around 25%. I wonder what the teen pregnancy rates would be if you had a minority population of 25% here in the south? In fact, I wonder what the rates are by ethnic group.

BluebellJones

October 21st, 2010
6:24 pm

Well, sex does feel good. Hard to argue that. How about ditching all this abstinence junk and get real. Talk about all the relevant body parts, what goes where, what to expect, what is dangerous and what causes pregnancy. Just the basic gist of it-they can get fancy on their own dime. I don’t know why everyone is so het up about teenagers having sex. If they are told what will happen, that sex is a good, pleasurable thing but must be protected sex I’m pretty sure the whole thing will be de-mystified. And condoms and birth control pills in the schools. Don’t deny them the opportunity to use caution.

BluebellJones

October 21st, 2010
6:31 pm

Also, there’s an awful lot of chat here about the girl’s responsibility. Not much pressure seems to be put on the young men. I do hope we are past the days when people thought the boys just couldn’t control themselves and it was the girls job to fight him off. This isn’t the 60’s. It takes two.

Monica

October 21st, 2010
6:32 pm

Tech Mom, I had a student several years ago who had a baby at 16. Her mother wouldn’t let her get an epidural because she said she wanted her to remember that pain! Good idea!