Good News: Pregnancy Among Black Teen Girls Declines

072512-health-teens-more-hip-to-safer-sex.jpgAccording to a recent study by the National Center for Health Statistics – of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – teen pregnancy rates for black girls has continued to fall. It reached an all time low in 2009. And, these lowering rates mean increased long-term health and economic growth for these young women.

The study found that, from 1990 to 2009, the teen pregnancy rate for black girls dropped 51%. This change was a part of a similar drop for white and Hispanic girls. Abortion rates also dropped during this period. Sadly, the pregnancy rate for black girls was still roughly double that of non-Hispanic white girls. But, the steady decline instills hope that these young women will have increased opportunities for economic and social mobility as they venture toward adulthood.

What is most promising about the study’s findings is that teenage girls are increasingly using contraception when sexually active while also decreasing sexual activity. These girls have figured out that abstinence and protection help to preserve one’s own health, personal liberty, and future plans. I would like to think that efforts around the country to educate teens on the risks to children and teen mothers have finally paid off. The fact that these young ladies are empowering themselves is hope inspiring.

Why is this so important? Well, for a host of reasons. First, young ladies have an increased likelihood of going to college when they do not have children prior to starting. Having a child in high school increases the likelihood that young women – who bear the brunt of child-rearing in teen years – will drop out of high school. So, the fact that young women are having children later in life means that they have a better chance at achieving higher education. And we all know that higher education correlates directly with lifelong income increases.

Second, children born to teen moms have an increased likelihood of becoming teen parents themselves. This cycle creates an inter-generational pathway for continued economic struggle and poor educational attainment. Children born to teen moms also have an increased likelihood of being born prematurely or with low birth-weight. So, being born to a teen mom can be very risky. Since this is on the decline, health outcomes for this demographic should be increasing in response.

Lastly, one of the most promising aspects of this news is that teen girls are not engaging in premarital sex with young men who likely have no interest in starting  a family. Since self-worth can sometimes be wrapped up in one’s physical self, it is important that these young women are no longer depending on sexual relationships to define their worth.

This news completely undermines many of the stereotypes and tropes about young black women. The Jezebel label is a primary example of how young black women are incorrectly assumed to be one-dimensional characters. The image of the child-bearing welfare queen is one which still prevails in mainstream society. But, this data proves that that trope has little realistic data behind it. Young women can be heartened by the fact that these stereotypes apply to them less and less.

Sadly, many people have no idea that teen pregnancy rates for black girls are on a consistent decline. But, as more and more people publicize these findings, hopefully the negative images of young black women will be on the decline as well.

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