Shutterstock

What other factors influence which states have the highest teen birthrates?

There were a lot of provocative comments on my recent post on the geography of teen birthrates in America. In it, I found that teen birthrates remain highest in America’s most religious, politically conservative and blue-collar states.

A few of them in particular caught my eye. Some commenters asked whether race played a factor — do states with higher non-white populations also have higher teen birthrates?  

While teen birthrates do vary by race — in 2010, the birthrate for white teenagers between the ages of 15 and 19 was 23.5 per 1,000, compared to 51.5 for black (non-Hispanic) teens, and 55.7 for Hispanic teenagers — there is little association between a state's teen birthrate and the racial breakdown of its population. When my colleague Charlotta Mellander ran the correlations for race, she found was no statistically significant association between teen birthrates and the Hispanic share of a state population. There was also no statistical association between teen birthrates and the share of population that is white. There was a modest positive association (.32) between teen birthrates and the black share of a state population.

Several other commenters wondered about teens who were married when they gave birth. Could Southern states have lower average marriage ages, and could that impact the teen birthrate?

The CDC report on which my analysis was based did not provide data on this. However, there are some interesting relationships between marriage generally and teen birthrates. On the one hand, there is a modest negative correlation between teen births and the average length of marriage in a given state (-.36). On the other, teen birthrates are positively correlated with a state's divorce rate (.44). In other words, teen birthrates tend to be slightly higher where divorce is more frequent, and slightly lower where marriages tend to be longer. But the strongest relationship we found (.72) is between the teen birthrate and the rate of serial marriage (people who have been married three or more times) in a state.

A number of other readers speculated that there was a connection between teen birthrates and abortion, suggesting the states with higher rates of abortion would have lower birthrates for teenage mothers. As one commenter wrote: "perhaps abortion rates are higher in low birthrate states." 

Our analysis found a modest negative correlation (-.39) between teen birthrates and abortion rates across the states. That is, states with higher abortion rates tend to have lower teen birthrates. It is unlikely, however, that the association is causal. Rather, the connection between teen pregnancy and abortion seems to turn on differences in state policies toward abortion.  

States with the highest rates of teens giving birth tend to have the most stringent restrictions on abortions, including stricter parental notification rules and far fewer abortion service providers. Teens from these states face considerable obstacles to gaining access to abortion and other sexual heath services and frequently must travel to other states to obtain abortion services, if they can afford to.  I will have more to say about this in a future post on the geography of abortion.

Photo credit: Dmitry Kalinovsky/Shutterstock

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. photo: A lone tourist in Barcelona, one of several global cities that have seen a massive crash in Airbnb bookings.
    Coronavirus

    Can Airbnb Survive Coronavirus?

    The short-term rental market is reeling from the coronavirus-driven tourism collapse. Can the industry’s dominant player stage a comeback after lockdowns lift?

  2. Illustration: two roommates share a couch with a Covid-19 virus.
    Coronavirus

    For Roommates Under Coronavirus Lockdown, There Are a Lot of New Rules

    Renters in apartments and houses share more than just germs with their roommates: Life under coronavirus lockdown means negotiating new social rules.

  3. photo: South Korean soldiers attempt to disinfect the sidewalks of Seoul's Gagnam district in response to the spread of COVID-19.
    Coronavirus

    Pandemics Are Also an Urban Planning Problem

    Will COVID-19 change how cities are designed? Michele Acuto of the Connected Cities Lab talks about density, urbanization and pandemic preparation.  

  4. Equity

    The Problem With a Coronavirus Rent Strike

    Because of coronavirus, millions of tenants won’t be able to write rent checks. But calls for a rent holiday often ignore the longer-term economic effects.

  5. A pedestrian wearing a protective face mask walks past a boarded up building in San Francisco, California, U.S., on Tuesday, March 24, 2020. Governors from coast to coast Friday told Americans not to leave home except for dire circumstances and ordered nonessential business to shut their doors.
    Equity

    The Geography of Coronavirus

    What do we know so far about the types of places that are more susceptible to the spread of Covid-19? In the U.S., density is just the beginning of the story.

×