US teen birth rate still far higher than W. Europe

The rate of teen births in the U.S. is at its lowest level in almost 70 years. Yet, the sobering context is that the teen pregnancy rate is far lower in many other countries.

The most convincing explanation is that contraceptive use is much higher among teens in most Western European countries.

Last week, U.S. health officials released new government figures for 2009 showing 39 births per 1,000 girls, ages 15 through 19 — the lowest rate since records have been kept on this issue.

That’s close to the teen birth rate for Romania, Turkey and Bulgaria in 2007, the latest numbers available from the World Bank, which collects a variety of data gauging international development.

The teen birth rate for Western Europe and a few other countries is dramatically lower. In the United Kingdom it’s 24 per 1,000 girls. In traditionally Catholic Ireland, it’s 16 and in Italy it’s 5. France’s rate is 7 per 1,000. Canada’s rate is under 13, Sweden’s is under 8, Japan’s is about 5, and in the Netherlands it’s close to 4.

The disparity has existed for decades. Several experts say the reason mostly has to do with more realistic approaches to birth control.

Birth control is less expensive and easier for teens to get in many other developed countries than in the United States. And teachers, parents and physicians tend to be more accepting of teenage sexuality and more likely to encourage use of contraception, said Sarah Brown, chief executive of the Washington, D.C.-based National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy.

Comments

Use the comment form below to begin a discussion about this content.

Please review our Policies and Procedures before registering or commenting

News Tribune - comments