California Has Been Enormously Successful in Reducing the Teen Birth Rate

Multiple strategies employed to lower birth rate to teens

by Brian Leubitz

There are few more coupled variables in societal statistics as poverty and teenage pregnancy. For better or worse, poverty leads to teenage pregnancy, which leads to poverty. It is a vicious circle, but one that we have some very potent tools to prevent.

And California has been doing much to combat teenage pregnancy. Consider the following:

In 2011, the birthrate for teenage girls in California dropped to its lowest level since 1991, a state report released Wednesday announced.

Twenty-eight children were born in the state for every 1,000 teenage girls, a sharp decline from 1991 when the rate peaked at 70.9 births for every 1,000 teenage girls. (LA Times 7/17/13)

In addition to comprehensive sex education programs in our schools, the state has been making efforts to reach youth using new tools and where they are. But even more than that, California has adapted its programs to general best practices. Amanda Marcotte looks at what works and what doesn’t, it shouldn’t really surprise too many people if they think about it for a minute.

What works: Comprehensive sex education that doesn’t flinch from addressing specifics. California has been a major success story on the teen birth front, getting their birth rate down from 70 births per 1,000 in 1991 to 28 in 2011. A huge part of their success has been implementing comprehensive sex education across the state, requiring schools not just to educate students about the existence of contraception but also explain the specifics of how to use it. …

What works: Youth programs designed specifically with teens’ actual needs in mind. Another part of California’s success was implementing various programs, often outside of schools, that reached teenagers on their own level. (Daily Beast)

We still have a ways to go before we catch up with Canada or Western Europe, but California is on the right track. We could always use more money to reach more children, but our goals and our methods are sound. The results speak volumes for evidenced based social programs, and the sound public policy results we can get if we spend a little money up front.

One thought on “California Has Been Enormously Successful in Reducing the Teen Birth Rate”

  1. That the teen birth rates in California have declined so much is good news.  But claims of proof that State programs are the cause are simply not appropriate here.  What we have is English Lit majors telling us that the data fits their intended conclusions.

    Here are some other facts that come from an actual report click here, not through some “English Lit Major now Journalist” filters:

    • The national teen birth rates have declined also for the same period (not due to California programs)
    • The California teen pregnancy rate is 5% higher than the National average and is ranked 17th highest in the country.

    So how can we be below average in pregnancy avoidance but slightly above average in the teen birth rate?  Well, one item couched in the “sex education” comments is , well, abortion.  The California teen abortion rate is 33% above the National average and 5th highest in the country.

    So what is really going on?  Well, lots of factors are at work I think: better sex ed, better access to birth control, greater awareness among teens of STDs, a reduced HS dropout rate, TV shows like 16 & Pregnant and Teen Mom, access to abortion providers.

    What is alarming to me is that folks here are claiming that California programs, especially those that are “culturally” focused are what produces these results.  Balderdash!

    The California teen birth rate for Latinas is 42 per 1,000 (fully 50% above the State average).  You want rates like Canada?  Well, California teens are already below the teen birth rates in Canada among our White and Asian teens (which is kind of the major ethnic makeup of Canada, eh?).

    Our successes simply will not continue until we figure out how to bring the Latina teen pregnancy rates down.  Almost 3 in 4 California teen births are to Latina teens.  This is a major Latina culture issue that we must address and where our program foci need be.  Our gains thus far in this area are incomplete, at best, or ineffective, at worst.

    The patting ourselves on our back should stop as we have work to do here….

Comments are closed.