Research tells us that the longer children remain in school and engaged in learning, the better their life-long health. —Evelyn M. Kappeler

Teen birth rates in the United States fell to a record low in 2011, according to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The decrease was especially sharp among Hispanic youths — a 34 percent decrease from 2007-2011. Teen birth rates in general declined 25 percent.

The decline began in 1991, but was "briefly interrupted" in 2006 and 2007, it said. The report found that the birth rate of 41.5 per 1,000 teens ages 15 to 19 in 2007 had fallen to 31.3 in 2011, the lowest it had ever been. In 2011, 329,797 were born to teens 15-19.

Compared to babies born to women 20 and older, babies born to teens are more likely to have low birth weight, preterm birth, and of dying in infancy. The associated cost of teenage births is $10.9 billion annually.

"There are a number of key factors, including stronger teen pregnancy prevention education, the choice by many teens to delay sex, and higher rates of contraceptive use by teens who are sexually active," Evelyn M. Kappeler, director of the Office of Adolescent Health in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, wrote on a health blog on Huffington Post.

"Those of us who are working to support adolescent health and reduce teen pregnancies are understandably encouraged by this positive news. The stakes are high for teens, their parents, local communities, and our entire nation," she wrote. "Compared with teens who delay childbearing, teen girls who have babies are less likely to finish high school or attend college; more likely to rely on public assistance; and more likely to live in poverty as adults. Furthermore, children born to teen mothers are more likely to have poorer educational, behavioral, and health outcomes over the course of their lives than children born to older parents. We know that schools play an essential role in supporting adolescent health. Research tells us that the longer children remain in school and engaged in learning, the better their life-long health."

Only North Dakota and West Virginia saw no significant change. The states with the steepest drop, 30-39 percent, were Arizona, Idaho, Colorado, Utah, Nevada, Minnesota and Florida.

"The recent declines in teen childbearing are sustained, widespread, and broad-based," the CDC summary said. "If teen birth rates by age and race and Hispanic origin of mother had remained at their 1991 levels, an estimated 3.6 million more births to teenagers would have occurred from 1992 through 2011."

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