States With Highest Teenage Pregnancy and Birth Rates

More Teens Become Pregnant, Give Birth in These States

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While the teen pregnancy rate has been declining overall over the past two decades, rates of teen pregnancy and birth can vary wildly from state to state within the United States. However, there seems to be a connection between ​sex education (or the lack thereof) and the rates of teen pregnancy and parenthood.

The Data

A recent report by the Guttmacher Institute compiled teenage pregnancy statistics in the United States gathered state by state in 2010. Based on available data, below are listings of states ranked by pregnancy and birth rates.

States with the high rates of pregnancy among women age 15–19 in ranked order:

  1. New Mexico 
  2. Arkansas
  3. Mississippi 
  4. Oklahoma
  5. Texas 
  6. Louisiana

In 2013, New Mexico had the highest teenage pregnancy rate (62 per 1,000 women). The next highest rates were in Arkansas (59), Mississippi (58), Oklahoma (58), Texas (58) and Louisiana (54).

The lowest rates were in New Hampshire (22), Massachusetts (24), Minnesota (26), Utah (28), Vermont (28) and Wisconsin (28).

States ranked by rates of live births among women age 15–19: 

  1. New Mexico
  2. Arkansas 
  3. Oklahoma
  4. Mississippi
  5. Texas 
  6. West Virginia 

In 2013, the teenage birth rate was highest in New Mexico, Arkansas, and Oklahoma (43 per 1,000 women), and the next highest rates were in Mississippi (42), Texas (41) and West Virginia (40).

The lowest rates were in Massachusetts (12), Connecticut (13), New Hampshire (13), Vermont (14) and New Jersey (15).

What Does This Data Mean?

For one, there seems to be an ironic correlation between states with conservative politics around sex education and contraception and high rates of teen pregnancy and birth. Some research suggests that "U.S. states whose residents have more conservative religious beliefs on average tend to have higher rates of teenagers giving birth. The relationship could be because communities with such religious beliefs (a literal interpretation of the Bible, for instance) may frown upon contraception ... If that same culture isn't successfully discouraging teen sex, the pregnancy and birth rates rise."

Furthermore, teen pregnancy and birth rates are often higher in rural areas rather than more urban areas. Think Progress reports:

"While teens across the country have largely been having less sex and using more contraception, teens in rural areas have actually been having more sex and using birth control less frequently. It’s not clear why that’s the case, but it could partly be because teens in rural areas still lack access to a range of comprehensive contraceptive services. There just aren’t as many sexual health resources in rural counties, where teens may have to travel farther to the nearest women’s health clinic. And deeply rooted attitudes about sex—including school districts that continue to cling to abstinence-only health curricula that don’t give teens enough information about methods to prevent pregnancy—may also play a role. Urban school districts, particularly in  New York City, have made significant advances in expanding teens’ access to sexual education and resources, but there often aren’t similar pushes in rural places."

Ultimately, the data underscore that it is not simply because teens are engaging in risky behaviors, such as having unprotected sex. They are also engaging in sexual activity while being un- or under-informed and while lacking access to contraception and family planning services. 

Consequences of Teen Parenthood

Having a child young often incites problematic life outcomes for teen mothers. For example, just 40% of women who have a child before age 20 finish high school. Because many teen mothers drop out of school to parent full-time, support around their education is crucial. While supportive social infrastructure to aid young parents is key, it is often missing, particularly in states with large percentages of teen pregnancies. One small way to help is for communities to start a Babysitters Club so they young mothers can take GED classes and continue their educations. 

As the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy argues "by preventing teen and unplanned pregnancy, we can significantly improve other serious social problems including poverty (especially child poverty), child abuse and neglect, father-absence, low birth weight, school failure, and poor preparation for the workforce." However, until we tackle the large infrastructural and cultural issues around teen parenthood, including access to family planning resources, the issue seems unlikely to go away anytime soon. 


Kost K, Maddow-Zimet, I and Arpaia, A. Pregnancies. "Births and Abortions Among Adolescents and Young Women in the United States, 2013: National and State Trends by Age, Race, and Ethnicity." New York: Guttmacher Institute. 2017. 

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Your Citation
Lowen, Linda. "States With Highest Teenage Pregnancy and Birth Rates." ThoughtCo, Oct. 29, 2020, Lowen, Linda. (2020, October 29). States With Highest Teenage Pregnancy and Birth Rates. Retrieved from Lowen, Linda. "States With Highest Teenage Pregnancy and Birth Rates." ThoughtCo. (accessed April 13, 2021).

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