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Teen Pregnancy Rates Fall Again

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Durham, N.C. (November 13, 2012)  – North Carolina’s teen pregnancy rate fell 12% last year, according to new data released on Tuesday by the North Carolina State Center for Health Statistics. The change represents the single biggest year-to-year drop ever and reduces teen pregnancy to the lowest levels in the state’s history.

The 2011 pregnancy rate for North Carolina girls ages 15-19 was 43.8 out of every 1,000 15-19 year old girls. In other words, fewer than 5% of 15-19 year old girls in the state got pregnant last year.

Other highlights from the newly released data include:

  • Reduced pregnancies among girls of all racial and ethnic backgrounds, helping to minimize some historical disparities. Pregnancies to white, black, and Hispanic teens dropped 11%, 12% and 13%, respectively.
  • Reducing the teen pregnancy rate also reduced all potential outcomes of a teen pregnancy. The teen birth rate dropped by 9% and the teen abortion rate dropped by 21%.
  • Only 26% of teen pregnancies happened to a girl who has been pregnant before, the lowest proportion of repeat pregnancies in state history. 
  • The teen pregnancy rate is 58% lower than it was when it peaked in 1990.

Cumulative Impact

Officials say North Carolina’s success can be attributed to a combination of national trends, smart investments, and North Carolina policies that make it easier for teens to avoid getting pregnant or causing a pregnancy.

Increased use of effective contraceptives is the primary factor in teen pregnancy declines, according to a February report by the Guttmacher Institute. The report also showed a small increase in the number of younger teens waiting longer to become sexually active.

“Cultural shifts have made it easier for our young people to avoid pregnancy,” said Kay Phillips, CEO of the Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention Campaign of North Carolina. “However, it’s important to realize that those cultural shifts would not have happened without policies that promote more effective education and access to health care.”

North Carolina has also made a concerted effort to place prevention resources in the most high-need counties and with the most at-risk groups.

 “Historically, more than 10% of girls in some counties get pregnant each year. By targeting the most deeply affected communities with effective programs, we’re increasing our return on investment,” said Phillips.

The North Carolina General Assembly targeted a total of $3,150,000 in federal funds toward the state’s teen pregnancy prevention initiatives during the 2012 session. Based on a February analysis of similar programs by the Brookings Institution, that investment alone is expected to save taxpayers nearly $8 million in long-term costs associated with teen pregnancy. In 2008, North Carolina taxpayers paid $292 million to cover the long-term costs of historical teen births in the state.  

In addition, North Carolina has attracted a series of federal grants to help local communities address prevention in new ways.

A Fragile Trend

Despite the success, experts warn that the trend requires maintenance. North Carolina still has the 14th highest teen pregnancy rate in the nation, and potential budget cuts – including the nation’s looming “fiscal cliff” – could hurt the state’s efforts.

According to Phillips, “We run the risk of backsliding if we take away the tools that helped us get so far, and that would have tough consequences for our economy, our schools, and our quality of life.”

In January, APPCNC announced a new state goal to reduce teen pregnancy 30% by 2020. More than 50 groups have endorsed that goal. Tuesday’s news marks a significant step toward that goal.

Additional Resources

APPCNC Resources:

Snapshot of North Carolina Data: http://www.appcnc.org/data/map/northcarolina

Data for Each North Carolina County: http://www.appcnc.org/data/map

Historical Data: http://www.appcnc.org/data/state-statistics/archived-state-statistics

NC State Center for Health Statistics: http://www.schs.state.nc.us/SCHS/data/vitalstats.cfm

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APPCNC is North Carolina’s nonprofit leader in preventing adolescent pregnancy through advocacy, collaboration and education. Learn more at www.appcnc.org.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT:  Elizabeth Finley, Director of Strategic Communications,efinley@appcnc.org, Office: (919) 226-1880, Mobile: (919) 749-7309

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