Nationally, the birth rate for U.S. teens has plunged to record low levels, but a new analysis shows that a disproportionate share of teen births are in rural communities.
In 2010, the birth rate for girls ages 15 to 19 in rural counties was 43 per 1,000, nearly one-third higher than the rate for metropolitan counties (33 per 1,000), says a newly released report.
The national rate in 2010 was 34 births per 1,000; preliminary 2011 data show an 8 percent drop to a historically low 31 births per 1,000.
The new report by the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy used the National Center for Health Statistics urban-rural classification system, which identifies rural counties (also called non-metro counties) as those with populations of less than 50,000. Metropolitan counties have populations of 50,000 or more.
"The prevailing stereotype is that teen parenthood is primarily an urban and suburban phenomenon," says Bill Albert, chief program officer for the Washington, D.C.-based non-profit. In fact, "the landscape of teen childbearing is more open spaces and fresh air than gridlock and high-rises," he says.
The results indicate that "the rates are far, far higher in rural areas compared to other parts of the country," Albert said. That suggests a greater need for efforts directed at helping rural teens avoid too-early pregnancy and parenthood.