In 2011, the birthrate for teenage girls in California dropped to its lowest level since 1991, a state report released Wednesday announced.
Twenty-eight children were born in the state for every 1,000 teenage girls, a sharp decline from 1991 when the rate peaked at 70.9 births for every 1,000 teenage girls.
Public health experts say state laws are responsible for the decline because they require public schools that offer sex education classes to provide scientifically reliable instructions on how contraceptives work along with information about abstinence.
Reproductive health planning projects like the California Personal Responsibility Education Program are also credited with the lower numbers.
“We do believe that our programs are behind these numbers,” said Karen Ramstrom, the chief of the program standards branch at the California Department of Public Health’s maternal child and adolescent health division.
Ramstrom said workers in the state’s various sexual health programs are provided with cultural training that has made a difference.
For instance, a manual created by the National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy encourages healthcare providers working with Latino teens to “adjust to their reality,” use bilingual moderators and train staff who understand Latino culture.
The CDC also has a diagram that shows healthcare providers what “a teen-friendly reproductive health visit” looks like.
Latinas, age 15 to 19, continued to have the highest birthrate at a little more than 42 children for every 1,000 teenagers, but that was still a drop from 1991 when Latinas had about 74 births for every 1,000 girls.
For black teenagers, the number of births went down from 51.8 to 34.1; white teens from 20.1 to 11.2; and Asian teens from 13.9 to 5.3.
Ramstrom said teenagers who have children are less likely to complete school and more likely to become dependent on welfare, as well as take on low-wage jobs compared with teens who don’t have children. These statistics ring true for both teenage mothers and fathers, Ramstrom said.
[For the Record, 9:47 a.m. PDT July 17: A previous headline on this post said the state teen birthrate had dropped to the lowest level in 10 years. It fell to a 20-year low.]