Dropping teen birth rates & why this work still matters

Updated: Feb 2


By Beth Olson

You’ve probably heard about the national drop in teen birth rates. I’m thrilled to report that it’s all true! Teen birth rates in McLennan County, Texas, and across the nation have dropped dramatically since the early nineties.

What’s behind this recent trend? While it’s nearly impossible to identify every factor that has contributed to the decline in teen pregnancy, researchers have identified three major themes:

  • Fewer teens are having sex.

  • A higher percentage of sexually active teens are using effective methods of contraception, oftentimes because they have better access to contraception than they did 30 years ago.

  • More teens are receiving accurate sex education.

Let’s celebrate the good news and keep moving forward. There is still much to be done.

First …

While overall teen birth rates have dropped in McLennan County, the details tell a more nuanced story

  • Almost three-quarters of teen births in McLennan County are to 18- and 19-year-old girls.

  • Teen girls of color are more likely to become pregnant than white teens.

It’s our job as adults who care about teens to better understand why this is happening and address those inequities.


Second …

Teens don’t want to get pregnant. Nationally, 82% of teen pregnancies are unplanned. That in and of itself is a reason to improve how we talk to teens about sex and ensure that sexually active teens have access to effective contraception.

Third …

If researchers have identified reasons for the drop in teen birth rates, then it makes sense to use those strategies moving forward. This is exactly what Prosper Waco is doing.

For example, we know research shows that informed teens who receive accurate sex education and talk with their parents about sexual health are more likely to delay sex and use contraception more consistently. We also know this topic makes adults uncomfortable.

So, we address this by teaching trusted adults how to talk with teens about sex, relationships, and their values.

Delaying pregnancy until adulthood creates healthier parents and healthier children. We’re on the right track. We just need to keep going.

Beth Olson is director of adolescent health initiatives with Prosper Waco.


More Teen Pregnancy Facts and Data

Texas Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy

Teen Pregnancy in McLennan County (2019)

Teen Birth in Texas

Interactive Data Map

Texas Research and Data

Power To Decide

Texas Facts and Data

National Data and State Profiles

The two graphs are from the CDC Wonder Database.