After 2-year rise, birth rate for teen girls drops

WASHINGTON — The rate at which teenage girls in the United States are having babies has dropped, according to the latest government statistics released Tuesday, raising hopes that an alarming two-year increase in teen births was an aberration.

Births among U.S. girls ages 15 to 19 fell 2 percent from 2007 to 2008, according to the federal analysis of birth certificates nationwide, reversing two consecutive years of increases that had interrupted a 34 percent decline and caused alarm that one of the nation's most successful social and public health successes was faltering.

"This is good news," said Stephanie Ventura of the National Center for Health Statistics, which released the preliminary analysis. "It might come as a surprise because people were concerned the teen birth rate was on a different course."

Ventura and others said it was too early to know whether the trend would continue in 2009 figures. But she speculated that it might because it was part of a broader drop in the birth rate for women of all ages — except those 40 and older — and that appears to have continued at least another year.

The reason for the drop remained unclear, though experts offered several possible explanations, including the poor economy.

"The economy may have had some role," Ventura said. "The economic downturn has been so severe that many people may be rethinking a lot of things, including having children."