New data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention bears good news: in 2010, America's teen pregnancy rate was the lowest ever recorded. Experts credit a combination of birth control availability and abstinence, but I'm tempted to credit this statistical dip to my favorite form of contraception— good old fashioned fear and shame combined with teens' chronic lack of ambition. Whatever the cause, America's teenagers are not getting pregnant in droves.
According to the CDC, the teen pregnancy rate has been falling more or less steadily for the last couple of decades, but in the last few years, the dropoff's been sharp. Between 2009 and 2010, the rate fell 9%. In 2010, the teen pregnancy rate was 34.3 births per 1,000 15- to 19-year-old girls.
This is great news, but take it with a grain of salt. Even with the drop in birth rate, America still has one of the highest birth rates among industrialized countries (USA! USA! USA!) and unplanned pregnancy still costs the government (and, by extension, the taxpayers) billions per year.
Some experts surmise that teens are scared shitless of becoming parents thanks the proliferation of shows like Teen Mom and more widespread information on the pitfalls of teen parenting. As a result, they're doubling up on contraception (using both a pill and condoms) or avoiding sex altogether.
Along with the report, the CDC released a statement encouraging the government to continue its teen pregnancy-prevention efforts, calling childbearing by teenagers "a matter of public concern" that's risky for both mother and child.
But not every state has occasion to celebrate this statistic. Mississippi is still winning the Teen Great Pregnancy Race, leading the country with a birth rate among teenage girls of about 55 for every 1,000 girls between 15 and 19. Other states in contention for the bragging rights that go along with having the pregnantest teens of all include Texas, Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Alabama. (You may recognize those states from various anti-birth control and anti-abortion legislation introduced in the past year; it's clear they're really doing their part to reduce the rate of unplanned pregnancies.) Bringing up the rear is New Hampshire, a state where only 16 of every 1,000 teenage girls give birth every year.