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Narrowing the Disparities Gap

Help reduce teen pregnancy rates among vulnerable youth
  • Tweet This Over 10 years, teen birth rates have been cut in half among Hispanic and black teens, reaching an all-time low.
  • Tweet This Although there has been remarkable progress in adolescent pregnancy prevention, disparities remain.
  • Tweet This County-level data are important to use for focusing resources and prevention efforts.

United States map of counties depicting teen birth rates per county by quintile.  Rate quintiles (births per 1,000 females ages 15-19): Fifth: 48.2 – 119.0 Fourth: 37.5 – 48.1 Third: 29.0 – 37.4 Second: 20.8 – 28.9 First: 3.1 – 20.7  Across counties, teen birth rates vary greatly.   By region: The majority of counties in the Northeast are counties with the lowest rate quintile. The Southeast and the Southwest contains a mix of counties with different quintiles, however, there are more large clusters of the highest birth rate quintile counties in these regions than in other regions.  There are a mix of county quintiles in the middle United States. There are intermittent counties with the highest rate quintiles.  Many counties have such a small population that data were not available for these counties.     States bordering the Great Lakes have many counties with lower birth rate quintiles. The Northwestern states generally consist of a mix of all quintiles, with most being in the lower quintiles. Alaskan counties with data available have the highest birth rate quintiles and Hawaiian counties have mid-range quintiles.New data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) highlight both the reductions in the teen birth rate across the nation and also the continued disparities that exist. As documented in the report, there have been great declines in the teen birth rate between 2006 and 2014 overall and among racial/ethnic groups. The greatest decline was seen for Hispanic teens (51%),  followed by non-Hispanic black teens (44%), and white teens (35%). The overall decline between 2006 and 2014 was 41%. 

The Exchange’s Hot Points

It's time to redouble our focus on vulnerable youth by shining a light on health disparities. Despite these large reductions in teen birth dates, disparities persist. For example, the birth rates for Hispanic and non-Hispanic black teens are twice that of white teens.

From 2006-2007 to 2013-2014, every state experienced a decline, ranging from 13% to 48%. Declines were also seen among all racial and ethnic groups; however, the gaps between groups vary quite dramatically. In some states, like Kentucky and Alabama, the rates are almost equal across racial and ethnic groups. However, in other states, like New Jersey, black and Hispanic teen birth rates are 4 to 5 times higher than white teen birth rates.

There are also differences in teen birth rates between rural and metropolitan counties. Teens in rural communities are at a higher risk of teen pregnancy: teen birth rates in rural counties are one-third higher than in metropolitan and suburban counties. The teen birth rates in rural communities are also falling much more slowly than in non-rural communities: between 1990 and 2010, rural communities saw a 31% decline in teen birth dates compared to a 50% decline in the largest metropolitan communities.

What This Means For You

  1. First, understand and track your county-level teen birth rate data using tools available on Although national data can showcase overall trends and help set benchmarks or comparisons, national data do not paint a picture for your city or town. CDC offers data sets you can explore to determine where adolescent pregnancy prevention resources-time, effort, and funds-should be concentrated. You can also use local data to help build community support and buy-in.
  2. Second, examine the racial, ethnic, and geographic disparities in your state and community. Develop and implement strategies to narrow the gap and reduce disparities.
  3. Finally, take time to celebrate successes in reducing teen pregnancy in your community, but remember that much more work needs to be done!

Focus on disparities. Work with your state health department to determine teen birth “hotspots” based on county-level data to target prevention efforts and place resources. Set a goal for reducing the teen birth rate gap between racial and ethnic groups.


Page last updated: December 12, 2016
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