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Teen Births Up—Driven By Hispanic Immigration
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March 16, 2009, 04:00 AM
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Sadly, Sarah Palin`s daughter, Bristol, and her boyfriend (emphasis on boy), Levi Johnston, have broken up. According to AP Wire service, Bristol Palin says that she is "devastated". One can assume, therefore, that it was his idea.

Fortunately for Miss Palin, she has a loving and supportive family. They will provide financial and emotional support for her and baby, Tripp. The story for most teen mothers and their babies is very different—and much more tragic.

Teen births are on the rise. But, because of all the other bad news, the January press release in January from the Centers for Disease Control received little attention. After 15 years of decline, teen birth rates increased between 2005 and 2006. USA Today reported: "Some blame a more sexualized culture and greater acceptance of births to unmarried women. Others say abstinence-only sex education and a possible de-emphasis on birth control may play a part." [Teen birth rates up in 26 states, By Sharon Jayson, January 7, 2009]

Neither the press release nor the report (Births: Final Data for 2006) [PDF] spelled out what is driving this blip. A map on page 10 of Births shows that Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Kentucky, Oklahoma, Montana, Nevada and Oregon had the ten largest significant increases in birth rates. North Dakota, New York, Rhode Island and the District of Columbia birth rates decreased significantly. But this was not helpful as an aid to see what is happening. To understand the trends, one must pour over the data tables and do the math on multiple editions, not just one year of birth data.

By going to Tables 2 & 6 in final birth data published in Births: Final Data for 2005 [PDF] and Births: Final Data for 2006, one can calculate the one year change in annual teen births by race and ethnicity.

Change in annual Teen Births (ages 15-19) between 2005 and 2006

 

All births

Hispanic

NH White

NH Black

Native Am

Asian/PI

2006

435,436

145,669

169,729

103,725

8,261

7,812

2005

453,593

136,906

165,005

96,813

7,807

7,616

Increase

20,843

8,763

4,724

6,912

454

196

Percent of increase

 

42%

23%

33%

2%

1%

(Note that numbers do not add to totals because of some unknown and some multiple race/ethnicity mothers)

Looking at this table, one can see that Native Americans and Asian/Pacific Islanders comprise a relatively small portion of the birth increase, although Native Americans have a relatively high teen birthrate and Asians a low rate.

But between 2005 and 2006, Hispanic teens caused 42% of the increase in teen births although in 2006, they comprised only 17% of the teen female population. Non-Hispanic whites caused only 23% of the increase in teen births, although they accounted for 62% of the population of female teens. Non-Hispanic Blacks caused 33% of the annual increase in teen births—and they were 32% of the teen population.

Clearly, therefore, Hispanics were a disproportionate cause of the increase in teen births between 2005 and 2006.

Again, one year of data obscures the magnitude of the problem. Recall that the CDC reported that after a 15 year decline in teen births, the teen birthrate bounced up between 2005 and 2006.

No cause for alarm, right? Wrong, absolutely wrong. Between 2000 and 2006, the number of births to Hispanic teens soared. The number of births to non-Hispanic teens plummeted.

Here are the numbers from final birth data for 2000 (Table 7) and 2006 (Table 6):

Change in annual Teen Births (ages 15-19) between 2000 and 2006

 

All teen births

Hispanics

NH Whites

NH Blacks

2006

435,436

145,669

169,729

103,725

2000

468,990

129,469

204,056

116,019

Change

(33,554)

16,200

(34,327)

(12,294)

The drop in births to Non-Hispanic teens was caused by a drop in the birthrate, especially among blacks. The rise in Hispanic teen births was caused by a large population increase of Hispanic teens, plus very high birth rates. Again, the numbers are from data tables in the final birth data from the CDC.

Change in female population, 15 to 19, between 2000 and 2006

 

All female teens

Hispanics

NH Whites

NH Blacks

All Non-Hispanics

2006

10,389,322

1,755,297

6,446,759

1,636,874

8,634,025

2005

9,664,870

1,371,244

6,385,230

1,422,606

8,293,626

Increase

724,452

384,053

61,5298

214,268

340,399

% of increase

 

53%

8%

30%

47%

Most Americans, if asked, would guess that black teens have the highest teen birthrate. But that is now incorrect. Blacks used to have the highest rate, but it has decreased by almost half since 1991. Of course, this means it is still high compared to whites. But it is substantially exceeded by the Hispanic teen birthrate. Hispanic teens have the highest birthrate of any group, three times higher than Whites and 30% higher than Blacks

The table below shows the long-term drop in birthrates which are the births per 1,000 population in specified race/ethnic group. The rates are from Births: 2006.

Change in Birthrates between 1991 and 2006

 

All teens

Hispanic

NH White

NH Black

Native Am

Asian/PI

1991

62

105

43

118

84

27

2000

48

87

33

79

58

21

2006

42

83

27

64

55

17

In 2006, only 37% of teen Hispanic birth-mothers were U.S. born. Clearly, the long-term numbers show that Hispanic immigration poses a significant negative social impact. The experts do not get it because they are looking at only one year of data.

For example, The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, in a report entitled, Teen Births: Examining the Recent Increase, [PDF] states on page 4,

". . .given high levels of immigration from Mexico and teen birth rates in Mexico (80.6 in 2006) that are higher than the United States (41.9 in 2006) immigration from Mexico represents a possible explanation [for the increase in teen births]." [Final 2006 Teen Birth Data]

But on page 5, the author, Kristin Anderson Moore, waffles:

"Considering how modest these mid-decade [mid-2000] changes in immigration were, it seems unlikely that these changes could fully account for the change in teen birth rate. Moreover, immigration from Mexico and other high-fertility countries was common during the years the teen birth rate was declining."

This is wrong:

  • First, while immigration does not account for the full increase in teen births between 2005 and 2006, it does account for 42% of the absolute increase in teen births.

Moore is focusing on rates and not absolute numbers because she has only looked at the CDC data for 2006 and 2005 and not for the long term. I know this because I called her on the phone.

  • Second, because Moore did not look at the changes by race and ethnicity, she did not see that, while teen births overall may have been declining for 15 years, the absolute number of births to Hispanic teens increased by 16,200 annually. Births to other teens, of all races, dropped.

The National Campaign website does give considerable information about the dreadful social consequences of teen pregnancy.

But this is the shameful reality: the folks at CDC who compile these reports have Masters` degrees and doctorates and they have been authoring or contributing to them for years. For example, Stephanie Ventura [Email her]used to be the primary author of birth data in the 1990s and she is still a contributing member of the team. But neither she, nor any of her colleagues, say anything in the report or in the CDC press releases to help ordinary folks understand that immigration is the major driver in the rise in teen births.

In the March 16th issue of Newsweek magazine, Anna Quindlen in her column Let`s Talk About Sex asserts that the Bush administration caused the teen birth problem by only supporting abstinence-only sex education. She claims: "Texas leads the nation in spending for abstinence-only programs...and has one of the highest teen birthrates in the country" and adds sarcastically: "Those two sentences together sound like the basis for a logic question on the SAT, but a really easy one."

Well, Smarty Pants, if the SAT only had one question, you just flunked.

I regard myself as a liberal and I think Quindlen is correct that abstinence-only sex education does not work. But the issue of teen births is too complicated to be blamed on the Christian Right.

Two-thirds of the births to teens are among 18 and 19 year olds and most of the increase is among Hispanics. They are not in our schools and many never were because they are immigrants. Sex education in our schools is not reaching them.

Conclusion: As I showed recently with illegitimacy rates, America`s terrible teen birth trend is a one of those problems that could be, if not solved, certainly stemmed, if we quit importing uneducated, Third World immigrants.

Linda Thom [email her] is a retiree and refugee from California. She formerly worked as an officer for a major bank and as a budget analyst for the County Administrator of Santa Barbara.