Teen pregnancy in the U.S. has been declining continuously over the past 20 years. According to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS), America’s average teen birth rate has dropped from 61.8 births for every 1,000 adolescent girls in 1991 to 26.5 in 2013. And this most recent 2013 stat is an impressive 10 percent drop from 2012.
Despite these encouraging statistics, unplanned teen pregnancy is still a major public health issue. Many health experts and economists argue that it is a principal driver of poverty and inequality, as well as high abortion rates and number of children put up for adoption.
Some states have worked to find ways to combat teen pregnancy more efficiently, though. Using data from the National Vital Statistics System (NVSS), HealthGrove mapped the change in teen births (girls 15-19 years old) over the last five years.
Why are some states making bigger strides than others? Colorado’s effort against unwanted pregnancy, for example, has been successful due to programs that offer adolescents and poor women long-acting birth control. After being given this choice, the birthrate among these women fell by 37.9%, and abortions plunged by 42%, according to Colorado’s Department of Public Health and Environment.
The correlation between early motherhood and poverty was pretty strong in Colorado’s case. Before women were offered intrauterine devices (IUDs) from the free program in 2009, 50% of births to women in low income areas happened before age 21. In 2014, that age jumped to 24. And according to Sabrina Tavernise of the New York Times, this difference “gives young women time to finish their educations and to gain a foothold in an increasingly competitive job market.”
Many of the states that have a low 5-year change—meaning they still haven’t reduced teen pregnancies—also have relatively high poverty levels. New initiatives like the one in Colorado may help states make progress on both goals.
HealthGrove ranked the top 10 states that are setting a good example for the rest of the country, ordered by the biggest 5-year declines in teen births.
Teen birth rate in 2013: 1.96%
Wisconsin reduced adolescent pregnancies by 33.3% in five years.
Teen birth rate in 2013: 2.16%
Oregon reduced adolescent pregnancies by 33.5% in five years.
8. District of Columbia
Teen birth rate in 2013: 3.21%
The District of Columbia reduced adolescent pregnancies by 33.8% in five years.
Teen birth rate in 2013: 2.01%
Virginia reduced adolescent pregnancies by 33.9% in five years.
6. North Carolina
Teen birth rate in 2013: 2.84%
North Carolina reduced adolescent pregnancies by 35.0% in five years.
Teen birth rate in 2013: 3.05%
Georgia reduced adolescent pregnancies by 35.1% in five years.
Teen birth rate in 2013: 1.94%
Maryland reduced adolescent pregnancies by 36.8% in five years.
Teen birth rate in 2013: 2.34%
Colorado reduced adolescent pregnancies by 37.9% in five years.
Teen birth rate in 2013: 1.21%
Massachusetts reduced adolescent pregnancies by 37.9% in five years.