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Reporting on health and quality of life in South LA

Teen birth rate in US at a 'historic low'; South LA's is still highest in the county

In 2011, there were about 31 teen births for every 1,000 teenage girls; In 1991, the rate was double that.
In 2011, there were about 31 teen births for every 1,000 teenage girls; In 1991, the rate was double that. Daniel Lobo/Flickr Creative Commons

The teen birth rate across the U.S. was at a "historic low" in 2011, and the mean age of mothers has risen to about 26. 

That's according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which released finalized data on births in the U.S. on Friday.

But the rate remains stubbornly high in South Los Angeles.

In 2011, there were about 31 teen births for every 1,000 teenage girls in the U.S., according to the CDC. That marks a steep decline from 1991 and 2007, when the teen birth rate was about 62 and 42 births per 1,000 girls, respectively.

South L.A., on the other hand, has the highest teen birth rate in L.A. County, according to the public health department: about 51 births for every 1,000 teenage girls. For comparison: L.A. County's overall teen birth rate is about 34 births per 1,000 girls.

In reacting to the recent controversy surrounding the morning-after pill, local health providers have pointed to the area's high teen birth rate as one reason to increase its availability.

Data from L.A. County also shows that more than 8 percent of South L.A. newborns have a low birth weight, and that more than 6 in 1,000 newborns die. Both of those rates are among the highest in the county, but CDC data shows that South L.A.'s rate of low birth weight is about on par with the rest of the U.S.

Also among the CDC's findings for births in 2011:

  • There were about 29 teen births per 1,000 teenage girls in California, which marked a decline from the 2010 rate of about 32.
  • Latina teens had the highest birth rate of any ethnicity – about 50 births per 1,000 teenage girls. Blacks followed (about 47), then Native Americans (about 36), then whites (about 22). Asians had the lowest teen birth rate – 10 per 1,000 teen girls.
  • Nearly 4 million births were registered in the U.S., down 1 percent from 2010.
  • The general fertility rate, which measures births among women between 15 and 44, was "the lowest ever reported" – about 63 births for every 1,000 women.
  • The birth rate for women between 20 and 24 was "a record low."

The authors of the report also noted that in 1970, the mean age of mothers was a little over 21; in 2011, it was nearly 26.

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