Teen Birth Rate Up for First Time in 15 Years in California
After 15 years of declines, California's teen birth rate increased in 2006, according to a report issued today by the not-for-profit Public Health Institute, the San Francisco Chronicle reports.
The report, called "No Time for Complacency: Teen Births in California," found that the state's birth rate for teen births increased from 37.2 per 1,000 teens in 2005 to 37.8 per 1,000 teens in 2006. California's teen birth rate still is below the national average of 41.9 births per 1,000 teens (Allday, San Francisco Chronicle, 5/21).
The number of teen births in the state increased to 52,770 in 2006 from 50,433 in 2004 (Kisken, Ventura County Star, 5/21).
Areas in the Central Valley, the Los Angeles-San Bernardino county region and the Imperial-Riverside-San Diego county region had the state's highest teen birth rates. According to the study, teen birth rates were up in 32 of California's 40 state senate districts.
The report used data from 2006 and only studied teens between the ages of 15 and 19, the standard age group for reporting teen births from the state Department of Public Health and other government agencies, according to study author Norman Constantine, a clinical professor of public health at UC-Berkeley (Walker, Orange County Register, 5/20).
According to the report, teen births cost taxpayers statewide $1.7 billion in 2006, up from $1.45 billion in 2002.
Constantine said the study calculated taxpayer costs by analyzing factors such as:
- Loss of tax revenue based on the teenage parents' lowered income;
- Reliance on Medi-Cal, the state's Medicaid program, welfare and other public assistance programs; and
- Increased costs for foster care placement.
Teen health experts said that the increase cannot be attributed to one factor but that a growing teenage population likely is a contributing factor (San Francisco Chronicle, 5/21).
Others blame the rise on ineffective sex education, parents who do not talk with their children about sex and differences in the way some Hispanic families view adolescent pregnancy (Ventura County Star, 5/21).
Constantine said the rise can be attributed to a leveling off of funding for teen pregnancy prevention programs and a halt in the decline of the poverty rate (Orange County Register, 5/20).
However, Bonnie Sorensen, chief deputy director of policy and programs at the state Public Health Department, said the increase is not statistically significant and characterized it as more of a "leveling off" (Hines, Riverside Press-Enterprise, 5/20).
State programs specifically designed to prevent teen pregnancy saw a 37% budget cut last year and are expected to see another 10% drop in funding under Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's (R) proposed budget, according to Shanie Scott, a spokesperson for Planned Parenthood Mar Monte.
Scott said, "I believe that the latest budget cuts that are already in will affect 30,400 teens, and parents who will lose services" (Goldeen, Stockton Record, 5/21).
Budget cuts would reduce funding by about $1.5 million for three teen pregnancy prevention programs operated by DPH if lawmakers approve the governor's budget plan (Riverside Press-Enterprise, 5/20).