SOURCE: Public Health Institute

May 31, 2006 19:17 ET

Across-the-Board Drop in California's Teen Birth Rate Promising but Far From Potential

OAKLAND, CA -- (MARKET WIRE) -- May 31, 2006 -- In literally every region of the state, teen birth rates have declined over a four-year period, according to a study released today by the Public Health Institute (PHI). And while the statewide decrease of 8 percentage points between the years 2000 and 2004 is encouraging, the report's authors caution that rates remain unacceptably high, tallying taxpayer and societal costs of more than $3.4 billion a year.

The report, "No Time for Complacency: Teen Births in California," examines birth rates by state Senate districts in the year 2000 and again in 2004. During this period, the statewide rate dropped from 47.7 per 1000 to 39.7. Each of the state's 40 Senate districts showed a decline, with drops ranging from 14.9 percentage points to 1.8 points.

"This continued decline is encouraging, but California still has a long way to go to reach its potential," explains co-author Dr. Norman Constantine, senior scientist and director of PHI's Center for Research on Adolescent Health and Development. "We can do much better and should aim for parity with other industrialized societies that have rates up to 10 times lower than California."

Constantine compares California's 39.7 teen birth rate to Japan's 3.9 rate, the Netherlands' 5.8 rate and Italy's 6.9 rate. Domestically, however, California has enjoyed the largest decline in teen birth rates in the nation for over a decade, a reality the authors partly attribute to the state's unprecedented investment in teen pregnancy prevention programs.

"The costs to local communities are staggering and continue to increase with inflation," explains co-author Dr. Carmen Nevarez, PHI's medical director and vice president of external relations. "On a community-by-community basis, we're seeing individual legislative districts losing as much as $212 million a year due to avoidable teen pregnancies. That's money few California communities can afford to throw away."

Three regions of the state suffered especially high rates: the Los Angeles area (Districts 20, 22, 24, 25, 26, 27, 30 and 32), the Central Valley (Districts 12, 14 and 16) and the Imperial Valley (Districts 32 and 40). Collectively, teen birth rates in those 13 regions are costing more than $1.5 billion in taxpayer and societal costs. Despite these high rates, several of these regions recorded some of the largest declines, including the two biggest drops in the state, District 24 (Romero-Los Angeles) and District 40 (Ducheny-San Diego), with declines of 14.9 and 14.8 percentage points respectively.

Costs per district were calculated based on a comprehensive and rigorous series of cost analyses on teen pregnancy and parenting. Estimates of taxpayer costs (including lost tax revenue, and public medical and assistance costs) and total societal costs (also including lost income, productivity and private medical costs) were determined based on the total number of teen births in each senate district. The resulting costs depict a substantial challenge for districts already struggling with major revenue losses and cutbacks, and force senators to look at the losses in their district.

In addition to showing teen birth rates and associated costs by Senate district, "No Time for Complacency" also analyzes each district's performance in light of their overall teen birth rate and its four-year decline. This allowed the authors to sort districts into four categories: Beacons (rate below state average, decline greater than state average); Improving (rate greater than average, decline greater than average); Holding (rate lower than average, decline less than average), and Challenging (rates greater than average, decline less than average).

Beacon Districts: 9, 10, 13, 28
Improving Districts: 12, 16, 20, 22, 23, 25, 26, 30, 34, 40
Holding Districts: 1, 2, 3, 4, 7, 8, 11, 15, 19, 21, 23, 29, 31, 33, 35,
36, 39
Challenging Districts: 5, 6, 14, 17, 18, 27, 32, 37, 38
"Californians should be proud to lead the nation in reducing the rate of unintended teen births," remarked State Senator Denise Moreno Ducheny (D-San Diego). "This study demonstrates the significant benefits of addressing this issue in a comprehensive manner, as well as the need for policymakers to continue providing strong leadership in addressing this problem."

The Public Health Institute is an independent, nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting health, well-being and quality of life. The study, which was funded in part by a grant from The California Wellness Foundation, is available online at http://teenbirths.phi.org/.

NOTE: Full copies of study and charts available at: http://teenbirths.phi.org/

Contact Information

  • CONTACT:
    Cinderella Lee
    Public Health Institute
    (510) 285-5533

    Norman Constantine
    Public Health Institute
    (925) 284-8118

    Paula Hamilton
    Brown Miller Commun.
    (800) 710-9333