The country's teen birth rates have hit their lowest level since 1976, according to a new government report.

The report by the U.S. National Center for Health Statistics found that from 1991 to 2001, the rate of births among teens aged 15 to 19 years old was cut in half from 62 births per 1,000 teens to 31 births per 1,000. In fact, from just 2007 to 2011, the rates of birth dropped 25 percent from 42.5 teens to about 31, according to HealthDay.

The largest drops were found in the Southeast, Mountain and Pacific states, and in the upper Midwest. Rates fell at least 30 percent in seven states, with Arizona and Utah seeing the highest drop at 35 percent. All the other states reported at least a 15 percent drop, except for North Dakota and West Virginia.

"It's good news," Brady Hamilton, a statistician and co-author of the report, said. "But it shows there is still much that needs to be examined and done."

Although the report only accounted for live births, not pregnancies, experts still believe that the reason the numbers dropped was because people are paying more attention to messages about preventing teen pregnancy, as well as a higher rate of birth-control use during first sexual encounters and dual contraceptive methods — using condoms plus the pill, for example.

If there was any ethnic group that got these messages it was Hispanics. The rate at which Hispanic teen births dropped was the steepest at 34 percent. Hispanics had higher birth rates than blacks in 2007 and 2011 as well, with 21 percent and four percent, respectively. The country's black teen birth rates dropped by 24 percent and white teen birth rates dropped by 20 percent.

Although dropping rates are good, Bill Albert, a chief program officer of the National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy, said it's important to realize that "our rates are still higher than in other countries."

While the rate of teen births in the United States was 42.5 per 1,000 teens in 2007, Canada's rate was less than a third of that at 13.3 births and Japan had even less at 4.9 births, according to a United Nations report.

The reason for this could be because risky sexual behavior is still reported among high school teenagers. A 2011 survey from U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that 47.4 percent of high school students surveyed had already had sexual intercourse, with 33.7 percent of them reporting sexual relations within the previous three months. Of those, 39.8 percent of them didn't use a condom and 76.7 percent went without birth control pills. More than 400,000 teen girls between 15 and 19 years old gave birth in 2009.


Hamilton B, Mathews T, Ventura S. Declines in State Teen Birth Rates by Race and Hispanic Origin. NCHS Data Brief. 2013.

Martin J, Hamilton B, Sutton P, et al. Births: Final data for 2007. National Vital Statistics Reports. 2007. 2013.