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Press Release · February 13, 2003

Teen Births in California Fall Below National Average

Latinas, San Joaquin Valley Region Have Highest Teen Birth Rates in State; Many Fathers of Children Born to Teens Are Over 21

SAN FRANCISCO, California, February 13, 2003 — Teen birth rates have fallen dramatically in California over the past decade and now rank below the national average, according to a study released today by the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC). At the same time, fewer teen mothers today are married and a majority of fathers responsible for teen births are substantially older than their partners.

After peaking in the early 1990s, teen birth rates in California declined 40 percent between 1991 and 2001, from a high of 73 births (per 1000 females ages 15-19) to 44 births. This reflects a drop in the number of teen births as well, from almost 72,000 in 1991 to about 53,000 in 2001. During that time, the teen birth rate in California fell from 11th highest among the 50 states to 21st .

The report, Maternity Before Maturity: Teen Birth Rates in California, finds that teen birth rates have declined for every racial and ethnic group in California. Overall, a substantial share (43%) of the decline in teen birth rates in California can be attributed to declines in birthrates among foreign-born Latinas. Today, two in three babies born to teens in California are born to Latinas (68%), followed by non-Hispanic whites (18%), African-Americans (9%), and Asian and Pacific Islanders (4%). The low rate for Asians masks substantial variation among subgroups: Laotian and Hmong teens are much more likely to be mothers than Chinese, Asian Indian, and Japanese teens.

The San Joaquin Valley has the highest teen birth rates (69 per 1000 females ages 15-19) of any region in California — over twice the rate of the Bay Area. “This is a disturbing finding that can be explained only partially by the composition of the Valley’s population,” says author and PPIC research fellow Hans Johnson. “A lack of economic opportunity also plays a role.”

Other Major Findings:

Fewer teen mothers today are married — In 2000, 78 percent of teen mothers were unmarried, compared to 63 percent in 1990 and 29 percent in 1970.

Most fathers are not teenagers themselves — Fathers of children born to teens are on average almost four years older than teen mothers, and a majority (51%) are over the age of 21. In 1997, one of every four children born to a teenage mother had a father who met one of the three criminal categories for statutory rape.

The Public Policy Institute of California is a private, nonprofit organization dedicated to improving public policy in California through independent, objective, nonpartisan research on major economic, social, and political issues. The institute was established in 1994 with an endowment from William R. Hewlett.