Adolescent Birth Rate

The adolescent birth rate continues to decline, but 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 2017, 2.6 per 1,000, masked large disparities by race/ethnicity and place of residence. Most teen pregnancies are unplanned. Only about half of 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, disparities remain. American Indian/Alaska Natives adolescents’ birth rate is 3.9 times the King County average; Hispanic/Latinas’ rate is 3.7 times the King County average; Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islanders’ rate is 2.9 times the county average; and Black/African Americans’ rate is 1.4 times the county average. The rates for Asians (0.7 per 1,000) and for whites (1.3 per 1,000) were 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 five times the rates of the East and North regions.

  • Poverty: In King County’s neighborhoods, adolescent birth rates rose as poverty increased. Adolescent females living in neighborhoods with the highest poverty rates were more than 14 times more likely to give birth than those living in neighborhoods with the lowest poverty levels (11.4 per 1,000 and 0.8 per 1,000, respectively). 

  • Trends: Recent decreases have continued a decades-long decline in almost all King County 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 mid-2000s. The rate also declined in all regions. Notably, in Seattle, in 2015-2017 it was less than a third of what it was in 2003-2005. 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). Adolescent birth has also fallen on a national level, although it remains much higher than in King County. The U.S.rate declined from 21.1 per 1,000 in 2008 to 8.8 per 1,000 in 2016. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, increases in the numbers of teens who are abstaining from sexual activity and in the number of teens who are using highly effective birth control are both contributing to the overall decline in birth rates.


Notes & Sources

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