Adolescent Birth Rate

The adolescent birth rate has decreased even as large disparities by race, place and poverty level persist.

The adolescent birth rate measures the number of births per 1,000 females age 15-17. In King County, the record low adolescent birth rate for 2015, 4.0 per 1,000, masked large disparities by race/ethnicity and place of residence. Most teen pregnancies are unplanned. Only about 4 in 10 teen moms finish high school, while less than 2 in 100 finish college by age 30. 

  • Race and ethnicity: While more severe disparities in the early 1990s have lessened over time, major gaps remain between race/ethnicity groups and the county average: Hispanic/Latinas (3.7 times the King County average), American Indian/Alaska Natives (2.9 times the average), Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islanders (2.8 times the average) and Black/African Americans (1.4 times the average). The rate for Asians (1.6 per 1,000) was below the county average.

  • Region and city/neighborhood: South region has the highest adolescent birth rate in King County, at over twice the rate of Seattle and over four times the rates of the East and North regions. All of the 13 cities and neighborhoods with higher-than-average rates are located in South Region. The highest of those rates, in Kent West and Auburn South (both at 18.5 per 1,000) have not been seen in the county as a whole since the late 1990s (data not shown).

  • Poverty: In Seattle’s neighborhoods, adolescent birth rates rose as poverty increased. Adolescent females living in neighborhoods with the highest poverty rates were more than 11 times more likely to give birth than those living in neighborhoods with the lowest poverty levels (14.7 per 1,000 and 1.3 per 1,000, respectively). 

  • Trends: Recent decreases have extended a decades-long decline in almost all Seattle communities. Since 2008, the overall adolescent birth rate has declined by more than half. Rates have fallen for Asian, Black/African American, Hispanic/Latina, White and Multiple Race adolescents since the early 2000s. The rate also declined in all regions. Notably, in Seattle, in 2013-2015 it was less than a quarter of what it was in 2000-2002. 
    The decline in adolescent births was mirrored by a similar decrease in pregnancies and abortions. Pregnancy among adolescent females declined from 2008 to 2016, after remaining stable from 2003 to 2008. The percent of adolescent pregnancies ending in abortion has also fallen since 2000 (data not shown). 


Notes & Sources

Source: Birth Certificate Data, Washington State Department of Health, Center for Health Statistics.

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