Annual Kids Count Report Finds Improvement in Teen Birth Rate, Infant Mortality Rate; Increase in Low-Birthweight Infants
There were 41 births for every 1,000 girls and women ages 15 to 19 in the U.S. in 2004, continuing a decline in teen birth rates across the country since at least 1990, according to the 2007 Kids Count report compiled by the Annie E. Casey Foundation and released on Wednesday, the Houston Chronicle reports (Markley, Houston Chronicle, 7/25). The 2006 Kids Count report found that the national teen birth rate in 2003 was 42 births per 1,000 women and girls.
The annual report measures each state in terms of 10 statistics, including infant mortality, teen birth rate and infants born with low birthweights (Kaiser Daily Women's Health Policy Report, 6/28). The report found the highest-ranking state for children overall is Minnesota and the lowest is Mississippi, the Philadelphia Inquirer reports (Giordano, Philadelphia Inquirer, 7/25).
The report found that the percentage of infants who were born weighing less than 5.5 pounds increased from 7.9% in 2003 to 8.1% in 2004. The infant mortality rate decreased from 6.9 deaths of infants under one year old per 1,000 live births in 2003 to 6.8 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2004 (2007 Kids Count, 7/25). Laura Beavers, a research associate at the foundation, said, "While well-being indicators have largely gotten better for teens, they've gotten worse for babies." She added, "We also see persistent disparities in outcomes for children of color, particularly African-Americans" (Annie E. Casey Foundation release, 7/25).
Texas Teen Birth Rate
Texas' teen birth rate of 63 births per 1,000 girls and women ages 15 to 19 was the highest in the nation in 2004, the Chronicle reports. New Mexico and Mississippi tied Texas for the highest teen birth rate in 2003, but rates in those states declined in 2004, while Texas' rate remained the same. According to the report, black teens in Texas are more than twice as likely to have an infant, compared with their white peers. Hispanics in the state are more than 3.5 times as likely as whites to give birth in their teen years, the Chronicle reports.
Robert Sanborn, president of Children at Risk, said ethnicity does not explain the increase in the teen birth rate completely because other states with high minority populations have lower rates. He added that he is concerned the state's sex education curriculum focuses too much on abstinence and does not provide enough information on other methods to prevent pregnancy. "We can preach abstinence quite a bit, and there is nothing wrong with that, but it doesn't affect some kids, and apparently, it's really not working in Texas," Sanborn said,
Texas Board of Education President Don McLeroy said the state emphasizes teaching abstinence education but added that the law also requires each district to have a local committee that decides what will be taught. "The idea that just giving them a lot of information is going to solve [the increased teen birth rate] ... is kind of naive," McLeroy said, adding, "Certainly, it's more of a societal problem than it is a school problem" (Houston Chronicle, 7/25).
The report is available online.