by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
The teen birth rate has been cut in half since 2008, but the causes behind plummeting teenage pregnancies could also extend into adulthood and contribute to a demographic crisis.
Although teen pregnancy has loomed large in American culture in recent decades, rates of teen births, pregnancy, and even abortion have fallen precipitously. Public health experts have cheered this trend, given the links between teen pregnancy and adverse outcomes for both mother and child. But the general decline in childbirth among a younger cohort may carry over into later years, reinforcing America’s record-low fertility rate.
The new Pew study breaks down the exact figures underlying the teen pregnancy drop. As of 2018, there were about 17 babies born per 1,000 girls aged 15 to 19 in the United States. That number is the lowest figure on record, with rates more or less continuously declining since 1990. …
… The culture angle ties into a more complicated, but comprehensive explanation: the rise of risk aversion among young people. Livingston and Thomas note survey data that show young people are having less sex. …
… At the same time, however, it is possible that this risk aversion is not fading with age. The current 20s-to-30s cohort of young Millennials and older Gen Z-ers is having less sex and getting married less, increasingly preferring to put off such decisions until adequately “established.” The result is lower rates of happiness, as well as lower birth rates. A 2019 analysis showed that 35 percent of the fertility decline (which concentrates among young people) was attributable to a drop in unintended pregnancies.