Teen Mothers:

Selected Socio-Demographic Characteristics and Risk Factors

HEHS-98-141: Published: Jun 30, 1998. Publicly Released: Jul 15, 1998.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO provided social and demographic information about teen mothers, focusing on: (1) trends in birth rates for teens; (2) a profile of teen mothers; and (3) factors, such as education or family background, that may influence the likelihood of teen motherhood.

GAO noted that: (1) although the birth rate for teenage women decreased 41 percent from the late 1950s to 1995--paralleling the decline in the U.S. birth rate--the number of babies born to teenagers is still high; (2) births to unmarried teenage mothers, however, more than quintupled as a proportion of total teen births over the same period; (3) as of 1995, the teen birth rate was about 57 per thousand; however, rates varied considerably by subgroup; (4) the birth rates for black and Hispanic teenage women are more than twice those for white teens; (5) in 1995, nearly half of teen mothers were white and most were aged 18 to 19 and unmarried; (6) about two-thirds of recent teen mothers did not intend to get pregnant or have a child; however, about one-fifth of women who gave birth already had one child; (7) teenage mothers also graduate from high school at lower rates than all teen women; (8) 64 percent of teen mothers complete high school, compared with about 90 percent of all teen women; (9) research studies that have examined the antecedents of teen motherhood have shown that limited involvement in school and some family background characteristics--such as family instability and declines in family income--are associated with increased likelihood of teen motherhood; and (10) the effect of most factors varies among racial and ethnic groups.

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