Tuesday, April 10, 2012

South Carolina tops Georgia, North Carolina

In teenage pregnancy, that is.

Yes, in a national survey conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, South Carolina now ranks 11th in the nation in teenage pregnancy. While we're not the highest representative from the South -- Mississippi takes the top spot, thus diverting attention from us again -- we still beat our neighbors to the north and west resoundingly.

It's spelled out in today's edition of the New York Times.

Nearly every state saw a decline in teen births from 2007 to 2010, with the biggest drop in Arizona at 29 percent. Rates stayed about the same in three states: Montana, North Dakota and West Virginia.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention previously reported that U.S. births by mothers of all ages had dropped in 2010 for the third straight year. Experts think the economy is a factor.

The rate for teenage moms reached its lowest point since record-keeping began in 1940. The rate fell 9 percent to about 34 per 1,000 girls ages 15 through 19. The decline was seen among all racial and ethnic groups.

The CDC report released Tuesday focused on state figures. The authors say the teen declines have been attributed to pregnancy prevention efforts. They note that a recent government survey showed more use of contraception by teens.

Even as it leads the nation with 55 teen births per 1,000 girls, Mississippi's rate has been falling like everywhere else. It dropped 21 percent over three years. New Hampshire has the lowest teen birth rate at just under 16.

Since 1991, the overall teen rate has dropped by 44 percent. Without that decline, the authors calculated, there would have been 3.4 million more babies born to girls by 2010.

State list with the rate per 1,000 teenage girls:

1. Mississippi 55

2. New Mexico 52.9

3. Arkansas 52.5

4. Texas 52.2

5. Oklahoma 50.4

6. Louisiana 47.7

7. Kentucky 46.2

8. West Virginia 44.8

9. Alabama 43.6

10. Tennessee 43.2

11. South Carolina 42.5

12. Arizona 42.4

13. Georgia 41.4

14. Kansas 39.2

15. Wyoming 39

16. Nevada 38.6

17. Alaska 38.3

17. North Carolina 38.3

19. Indiana 37.3

20. Missouri 37.1

As we learned yesterday in a study from Auburn University, teenage pregnancy is directly correlated with low educational attainment and poverty. So South Carolina has, depending on one's perspective, a lot of work to do, or a lot to be proud of, as our present budget priorities keep us locked in a trifecta of shame: Inadequate support for public education, inadequate attention to poverty and inadequate prevention of teenage pregnancy.

But our governor is selling books, so it's a great day in South Carolina.

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