U.S. Teen Pregnancy and Abortion Rates

Recent Statistics on Teen Pregnancy and Abortion in the United States

teen girl
Getty / Vicky Kasala

Preventing teen pregnancy—and abortion—is one of those perennial hot-button issues in the news. Not all that long ago, as many as 3/4 of a million teenage girls were getting pregnant every year. However, according to Pew Research Center analysis of new data collected by the National Center for Health Statistics branch of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), "the teen birth rate in the United States is at a record low, dropping below 18 births per 1,000 girls and women ages 15 to 19 for the first time since the government began regularly collecting data on this group." The CDC's figures show a 7% decline between 2017 and 2018 alone.

Teen Pregnancy, Births, and Abortion by the Numbers

The Guttmacher Institute, a recognized leader on matters relating to sexual and reproductive health and rights has been collecting, collating, analyzing, and disseminating high-quality research on these subjects since 1968. Their 2017 report, "Pregnancies, Births, and Abortions among Adolescents and Young Women in the United States, 2013: National and State Trends by Age, Race, and Ethnicity" includes data on teen pregnancy and abortion in the United States broken down into a variety of topics.

According to the report, In 2013, 456,000 women younger than 20 became pregnant in the United States. Of those pregnancies, 448,000 were among teens between the ages of 15 and 19; 7,400 were among those aged 14 and younger.

Additional findings from the report follow below. It should be noted that teen pregnancy rates differ from teen birth rates in that pregnancy rates include live births, abortions, miscarriages, and stillbirths.

Teen Pregnancy & Birth Rate Numbers

  • The pregnancy rate among 15- to 19-year-olds was 43 per 1,000 women, meaning that fewer than 5% of 15- to 19-year-olds became pregnant in 2013.
  • While 18- to 19-year-olds made up 41% of all women aged 15 to 19 in 2013, they accounted for 72% of all pregnancies in this age group. The pregnancy rate among 18- to 19-year-olds was 76 per 1,000 women, while the rate among 15- to 17-year-olds was 21; the rate was 4 per 1,000 among those aged 14 or younger.
  • In 2013, the U.S. pregnancy rate among 15- to 19-year-olds fell to its lowest point in at least 80 years. It dropped to just above one-third of a recent peak rate in 1990 (118 per 1,000 women). Between 2008 and 2013, the rate dropped 36% (from 68 to 43).
  • Trends in the pregnancy rate among those aged 14 or younger, 15 to 17, and 18 to 19 generally mirror the pattern of decline among 15- to 19-year-olds. Rates for all four age-groups are at their lowest levels since reaching a peak during the early 1990s.
  • The pregnancy rate among sexually experienced 15- to 19-year-olds (i.e., anyone who has engaged in intercourse) in 2013 was 101 per 1,000 women. This is more than twice the pregnancy rate among all 15- to 19-year-olds, a substantial proportion of whom have never had sex. The rate among the sexually experienced was less than half of the 1990 rate of 225.
  • The birthrate among 15- to 19-year-olds in 2013 was 26 per 1,000 women—less than half of the 1991 rate (62).

Falling Teenage Abortion Rates

Abortion rates for teens peaked in 1988 at 43.5 per thousand. In 2008 the teen abortion rate was 17.8 abortions per 1,000 women. Compared with the 2008 rate, that represents a decline of 59%. Although teen birth and abortion rates have been on a steady decline for more than two decades, in 2006 there was a short-lived increase in both the teenage birth and abortion rate, but both rates resumed their decline according to 2008 figures.

The proportion of teen pregnancies that end in abortion (known as the abortion ratio) declined by a third from 1986 to 2008, from 46% to 31%. By 2013, the abortion rate among 15- to 19-year-olds was 11 per 1,000 women, the lowest rates since abortion was legalized and only 24% of the peak rate in 1988.

In 2013, the abortion ratio among 15- to 19-year-olds was 29% (as compared to 46% in 1985). This ratio differed by age-group: 52% among women aged 14 and younger; 31% among 15- to 17-year-olds; and 28% among 18- to 19-year-olds.

Rate of Sexually Active Teens in the U.S.

According to Guttmacher Institute data, sexually experienced teens report engaging in a variety of activities, not all of which may result in pregnancy. Between 2015 and 2017, 40% of adolescents aged 15 to 19 reported having engaged in heterosexual intercourse that could result in pregnancy, with 75% of females and 48% of males saying that their first experience of sexual intercourse was with a steady partner.

While the total number of teens in that age group who've had sexual intercourse has remained steady in recent years, between 2013 and 2017 there was a downward trend in the proportion of high school students who engaged in sexual intercourse from 47% to 40%.

Meanwhile, the proportion of teens who engage in sexual intercourse increases rapidly as they age through adolescence. In 2013, about one in five 15-year-olds and two-thirds of 18-year-olds reported having had sex at least once.

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