The rate of US teens aged 15 to 19 who gave birth in 2012 is the lowest on record since the government began collecting such data 73 years ago.

A new report from the National Center for Health Statistics shows that although the overall national birth rate remained the same, there was a six percent drop in the number of teen births from 2011 in 2012. The number has been steadily declining since 1991. The teen birth rate is now less than half than it was in 1970, when it peaked at 644,708. (The US numbers, however, are still much higher than those in other industrialized countries like Switzerland, Japan, the Netherlands, Germany, Greece, and Spain.) The decline in children born to teen mothers was recorded using birth certificate data and occurred across racial and ethnic groups.

In a landscape where the median age for women to first have sex has decreased since 1988, it is likely that the lower rate of teen births is heavily shaped by birth control access and information, and particularly the use of IUDs. “There is not much evidence of a change in abortion use and not much change in sexual activity,” Dr. John Santelli of Columbia University told NBC. “What we have seen is greater availability of much more effective birth control methods.”

Media Resources: ThinkProgress 9/6/2013; US News & World Report 9/6/2013; NBC News 9/6/2013

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