(USATODAY.com) - More teens are having babies in the South and Southwest while the fewest are in the Northeast, according to new state-by-state breakdowns of federal data out Wednesday.
Births per 1,000 teenagers (ages 15–19) range from a low of 13.8 in New Hampshire to a high of 47.5 in New Mexico, according to the report from the National Center for Health Statistics based on 2012 data, the most recent available for the states.
In addition to the wide state variations, the same can be said for racial and ethnic breakdowns. Asian or Pacific Islanders had the lowest 2012 rate at 9.7, compared with Hispanic teens who had the highest rate at 46.3. Rates for the other groups are 20.5 for white, 34.9 for American Indian or Alaska Native and 43.9 for black teens.
"Birth rates for Hispanic teens are higher than for other groups," says demographer Stephanie Ventura, the report's co-author. "Right now, even though they dropped a tremendous amount, they are still higher than other groups. At one time, rates for blacks were higher but now Hispanics are higher."
The report takes an historical perspective, showing just how much has changed in more than a half-century. The record high for birth rates was in 1957 with 96.3 births per 1,000 teens compared with 2013 preliminary data showing 26.6 births per 1,000 teens. Overall, teen childbearing across the USA has been on the decline except for a few periodic increases.
Teen moms today are typically not married, while their counterparts of the 1950s were largely married women.
"It was a time period when people were getting married, especially young women in their late teens or early 20s. They were moving toward that domestic role at an early age," says sociologist Kathleen Bogle of La Salle University in Philadelphia. "Now it's seen as a taboo to get married too young or have kids too young. Having that first child at 17 or 18 is seen as something that's kind of ruining your life."
In 2013, 89% of births were to unmarried teens, up from 48% in 1980, 15% in 1960 and 14% in 1940.
The report also includes new birth certificate data showing smoking during pregnancy: About 11% of teen mothers in 37 states and the District of Columbia smoked while pregnant in 2012, compared with 8.5% of mothers age 20 and over.
Although the analysis notes that data on teen pregnancy aren't as up-to-date as birth data, the report finds that both teen pregnancy rates and abortion rates have also dropped. Between 1991-2009, the pregnancy rate fell 44% (to 65.3 per 1,000 in 2009) and the birth rate dropped 39% (to 37.9). The teen abortion rate fell 56% in the same period to 16.3 per 1,000.
Bogle, co-author of Kids Gone Wild, a book to be published in September about the hype over teen sex, says these varied measures of teen sexual behavior separate myth from truth.
"The popular image of behaviors that are wilder and wilder are quite the contrary," she says. "It's not that dramatically more conservative but a bit more conservative."