North Carolina is one of the nation’s most advanced states when it comes to collecting teen pregnancy data. While many states only collect teen birth rates, North Carolina collects teen pregnancy rates that include births, abortions, and fetal deaths. Knowing how many teen pregnancies occur each year gives us a better sense of how to approach prevention.
A Positive Trend
While many people believe teen pregnancy is a growing problem, North Carolina’s teen pregnancy rate is actually at an all-time low. Key highlights from the most recent data available show that:
- Teen pregnancy has declined more than 69% since it peaked in 1990
- Between 2016 and 2017, teen pregnancy declined 5%
- While significant racial/ethnic disparities still exist, the gaps between white teens and their African American and Latina counterparts are narrowing
- Most pregnancies - 71% of them - happen to an 18- or 19-year-old. Pregnancies to minors are increasingly rare.
- Fewer teen parents are having subsequent teen pregnancies
- Most of the decline in teen pregnancy is because of increased contraceptive use
How to Use Data
We provide measures of teen pregnancy in terms of numbers of pregnancies, teen pregnancy rates, county rankings, and change over time.
Teen pregnancy rates are the most helpful measure to use when examining teen pregnancy.
Rates are expressed as the number of pregnancies per 1,000 girls. Because they are calculated in a uniform way, they allow for an apples-to-apples comparison between counties, racial/ethnic groups, or years.
Counties with fewer than 20 pregnancies do not receive a teen pregnancy rate because too few pregnancies makes it difficult to create an accurate rate. As teen pregnancy rates decline, fewer and fewer counties receive rates - a win for teens but a loss of key information. If your county doesn't have enough teen pregnancies to produce a rate, we suggest using the number of pregnancies.
It's important to remember that teen pregnancy rates are also a fairly conservative representation of teen pregnancies. Because rates rely on county and clinic reports and because North Carolina's formula doesn't account for miscarriages, you should assume that your teen pregnancy rate and numbers do not count every, single pregnancy.
County rankings allow you to easily tell if your county fares better or worse than most of the state. Just a few key things to remember:
- Your county’s ranking is not as important as comparing your county's rates year-to-year
- Your county’s ranking may be more affected by what’s happened in another county than what happened in your own
- Counties that have fewer than 20 pregnancies are not ranked, so 72 is currently the best ranking even though there are 100 counties
Change Over Time
Change over time – whether your county is better or worse than it used to be – is the best measure of your success. We recommend you look at a trend of 5 years or longer to gauge your success, since a change of a few pregnancies each year can drastically change a county’s rate.