Why teen birth in general has declined so much this decade.

In no particular order, not least because correlations are hard to tease out and frankly, the reasons aren’t all that great from a Christian perspective.

  • Less sex and thus less pregnancy
  • Morning after pill use tripling since 2002
  • Condoms everywhere
  • Less driving

Teens increasingly stay home and look sexy at each other instead of Fast Times at Ridgemont High (which was fairly realistic for the time and correspondingly ugly and depressing).  When they do manage to fornicate, they try really hard to remember to use their STD/birth control and if they forget, they race for the morning after pill.

 

During the 70s and 80s, that was when abortion was the big thing causing (mild) decreases in teen pregnancy, but that hasn’t been a major factor in the recent declines.

 

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Why the current unmarried birth rate for black women has declined nearly every year for the last decade.

Massive drop in teen pregnancy each year and small increase in married births some years.

Teen births still represent about 1 in 11 births for non-Hispanic black mothers, which has brought them in most recent full data to about 1 in 8 unmarried births.  The very most recent couple years of data, including the preliminary stuff for 2016 show that the decline in unmarried childbearing has reached into the 20-24 age group.

As far as black birth goes, there’s still some room for teen births to continue their steep decline.  The question after that is whether the increases in unwed childbearing among older mothers (25+) will keep the overall unwed birth percentage around 65% or whether they too will decline.

The black teen pregnancy rate dropped nearly 50% in 5 years.

In 2010 it was just over 15% of all (non-Hispanic) black births. By 2015, the most recent complete data available, it was 8.6%.

There are several reasons this could be the case. It could be people leaving high-crime urban areas, which are where the bulk of black teen pregnancy is concentrated. It could be part of the increase in older, more educated foreign-born and second-generation non-Hispanic black immigrant mothers making up a bigger share of black births. It could be both, or some other factors. It’s not an increase in abortions, though.

For perspective, here’s a chart with rough estimates since 1970 and percent changes.

% teen pregnancy % change
1970 31 N/A
1975 33 2
1980 26.5 -6.5
1985 23 -3
1990 23 0
1995 23 0
2000 21.5 -1.5
2005 17 -4.5
2010 15.2 -1.8
2015 8.6 -6.6

The 1970s were pretty bad, as were the 1980s, but the last decade has seen a significant and major turnaround in teen pregnancy.  Teen pregnancy for black Americans specifically is particularly “bad” because it’s skewed unmarried for much longer than was the case with white teen pregnancies, starting with under 15 pregnancies being mostly unmarried ones in the 1950s when that wasn’t the case with white pregnancies under 15.  In 1966, not long after the famous Moynihan Report, black teen pregnancies to mothers aged 15-19 crossed 50% unmarried.

Through the 1960s and 1970s, teen pregnancy became completely decoupled from marriage for black teen mothers and heavily decoupled for black mothers in their early 20s, culminating in 1978.  Five years after Roe V. Wade, black births to mothers in their early 20s were now majority unwed and teen births were 80-97% unwed, depending on age.  However, teen births were only about 25% of total births, during the 1960s.  The table shows how things shifted after the collapse in married black motherhood during the 1970s and 1980s.

All birth data used for rough percentages comes from Monthly Vital Statistics Reports or National Vital Statistics Reports.

Notes For A Data-Driven History of Black Illegitimacy in America, 1917-2015

So a while back I printed up the CDC birth statistics (Vital Statistics) for black illegitimacy since 1917, the earliest numbers they have, as far as I could find.

It doesn’t quite fit any full Narrative about black illegitimacy.  But the long arc of black illegitimacy is one of racism plus modernity.

There have been multiple fluctuations downwards over 100 years, with the most recent improvement in legitimate births happening since 2009.

And there was a decline during the short window of time in which black men had access to free homestead land before the Depression.  There was a further decline as the Great Migration was underway a couple of decades later.

One ongoing pattern is whether teenaged mothers got married.  The point at which fewer than half of teenaged black mothers were able to get married was the point at which illegitimacy started shifting heavily upwards.  This would have been the 50s or so.  And teenaged births being a disproportionate chunk of total births for black women have been a constant.  The most recent numbers from 2015 show that black births are nearly 10% teen, while white births are less than 5% teen.

Even more interestingly, in heavily black (20% or more) urban cities like Chicago and Baltimore, teen births are around 25% of births.  That is something that probably has some strong explanatory value.