Despite public opinion, the kids may really be all right.
According to new statistics published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the teen birth rate (women aged 15-19) dropped 9 percent in 2016 compared to the previous year. What's more, there's been a 51 percent decrease over the past decade (since 2007).
This sharp decline in teen births is great news because teen mothers are more likely to drop out of school, miss advancement opportunities in the workplace, and fall below the line of poverty.
Researchers found that the provisional birth rate for teens was 22.3 births per 1,000 women in 2015 and dropped to 20.3 births in 2016. That's a huge shift.
In an interview with CNN, Dr. Elise Berlan, a physician in the section of adolescent medicine at Nationwide Children's Hospital, says that this is a "phenomenal decline." While Berlan was not a part of the research team, she notes that the findings are important "because we know that the vast majority of teen births are unintended."
So what's the secret to the decline? It’s definitely not that teenagers are having less sex. Instead, it seems that they’re using more birth control. In other words, the efforts that have been made to ensure teens have access to health services and contraceptives are paying off.
Some experts even admit that the favored Dr. Drew franchise "Teen Mom" has also played a role. Bill Albert, chief program officer of The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, tells Revelist that some of the credit can be given to MTV.
"What teenagers have told us in survey after survey is that they see these shows as a cautionary tale — as more sobering than salacious, as sex education for the 21st century," he states.
A 2014 study by the National Bureau of Economic Research also says that "16 and Pregnant" ultimately led to a 5.7 percent reduction in teen births in the 18 months after its premiere on TV.
Then again, at the end of the day, the credit for the decline goes to adolescents themselves. They're the ones making the effort to prevent unintended pregnancies. It’s great that more young people are getting the chance to actually be teenagers rather than experiencing parenthood before they are ready.