Teens are getting smarter about sex.
About 6 percent of female teens (ages 15 to 19) became pregnant in 2010, according to a report released Monday by the reproductive health nonprofit, the Guttmacher Institute.
That's down 15 percent from two years prior, and a decrease of 51 percent from the highest level in 1990.
Older teens — those 18 to 19 — made up 69 percent of teen pregnancies. This age group had a substantially lower rate of pregnancy despite a higher portion reporting that they have had sex, which the report says is likely due to more effective means of contraception and improved usage.
The teen birthrate fell 44 percent from its peak rate of more than 6 percent in 1991, to less than 4 percent in 2010.
The teen abortion rate is the lowest since it was legalized 40 years ago, and 66 percent lower than its highest point in 1988. The proportion of teenage pregnancies that ended in abortion declined from 46 percent to 30 percent since 1986.
The report found that although pregnancy rates declined significantly across racial and ethnic groups, large differences in pregnancy, birth, and abortion rates persist.
The pregnancy rate declined more than 50 percent in the past two decades among non-Hispanic white teenagers, black teenagers, and Hispanic teenagers, yet it remains more than twice as high for blacks and Hispanics as for non-Hispanic whites. The abortion rate for Hispanics is almost twice that of non-Hispanic whites, while the rate for black teenagers is more than three times as high.
Teen pregnancy rates declined in all 50 states between 2008 and 2010, but significant differences remain across state lines.
States with the highest pregnancy rates included New Mexico, Mississippi, Texas, Arkansas, Louisiana, and Oklahoma, which ranged from about 7 percent to 8 percent. Those with the lowest rates were New Hampshire, Vermont, Minnesota, Massachusetts, and Maine, which were all below 4 percent.
More than half of teenage pregnancies — excluding stillbirths and miscarriages — ended in abortion in New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut.
Meanwhile, the states with the lowest proportions of teen pregnancies ending in abortion tended to be states that now have the most restrictive anti-abortion legislation: South Dakota, Kansas, Kentucky, Oklahoma, Utah, Arkansas, Mississippi, Nebraska, and Texas. In each of these states, less than 15 percent of teen pregnancies ended in abortions.
The authors of the report cite several factors that likely account for the discrepancies among states: demographics, availability of sex education and contraceptive services, and overall attitudes toward sex and early childbearing.
Read the full report here.