A new report shows the US is experiencing the lowest birth rates ever. (Getty Images)

Study: Teen birth rates among Latinas falls to new low

Latina teen birth rates have hit a new low. According to the new study by the Center for Disease Control, Hispanic teen birth rates have fallen 11 percent from 2010 to 2011. The drop is even more steep over a longer period of time. From 2007 to 2011, Latina teen birth rates dropped a staggering 34 percent, making it the largest decline of any population group over the time period.

Brady Hamilton, the first author of the study, says that the drop for Hispanic teens is part of a larger trend in declining birth rates.  “For the fourth year in a row, U.S. births have fallen and the decline in teen births is really quite important. That is a group that certainly has been a force of concern in terms of public policy,” Hamilton says. Births are down overall by 6 percent for Hispanic women, compared to the 1 percent drop for all birth rates in the United States.

Hamilton says he believes that the Latina teen birth rate is affected by the same forces shaping the overall birth rate. “Like most things, it’s a variety of explanations. Much has been made about the role of the economy in births overall and that’s a potential factor,” Hamilton explains.

RELATED: Steep decline in Hispanic birth rates because of lagging economy, say experts

Bill Albert, Chief Program Officer at the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, agrees that Hispanic youth may be impacted by the economy. But for Albert, the link between declining birth rates and money isn’t so direct.

“The overall economic malaise in the economy does have an effect on teenagers. I’m not suggesting that teenagers are checking in with their 401k or their stock portfolio, but if their family has had to cut back because of job loss it can have an effect on teens,” Albert says. “They are looking at older brothers and sisters who are delaying being parents because they are not on financial footing.”

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Yet, Albert is hesitant to say that the economy is the main reason or “magic bullet answer.” He also attributes the combination of less sex and more contraception to education. He says that the country has done a better job in crafting messages specifically for Latinas. “Clearly Latino teens are getting the message about the importance of delaying pregnancy,” Albert says.

Cleo Garcia works with AVANCE, a Texas-based organization that offers a parent-children education program to at risk communities. She says she too has seen a decline in the amount of teen mothers due to education. One program that AVANCE offers is an early head start program for high school mothers who want to continue with classes. Garcia says that demographically, AVANCE serves mostly Hispanic mothers.

“In our forty years of service we have seen a decline. People are being hit with all aspects of information from the community, the media, programs and services about making healthier choices and realizing what they need to do to be better prepared,” Garcia says. “There’s still young mothers, teens in all walks of life still have pregnancy at early ages, but we are definitely seeing the impact of education in the Hispanic community.”

But for Albert, one of the most critical factors is the role of parents. “Teenagers tell us time and time again that when it comes to their decisions about sex, parents matter the most,” Albert says. “When we see this good news, we need to remind parents how important it is to talk to kids about love, relationships, and contraception.”

RELATED: Teen pregnancy plunges but sex can still be taboo among Latina moms

While the results of the study do signal a positive trend for Latina teens, Hamilton notes that it is important to distinguish birth rates from pregnancy rates.

“Pregnancies can result in three different outcomes,” Hamilton explains, citing abortion, miscarriage and birth as the potential results of pregnancy. “Our data just comes from birth certificates.”

Albert also cautions against thinking of declining births among Latinas as the end of the teen pregnancy problem. According to the study, Hispanic teen birth rates still exceed that of any other population group. Hispanics currently have a teen birth rate of 49.4 percent in the age 15 to 19 year age category, compared to the 21.8 percent of non-Hispanic whites.

“The exact wrong method is to somehow think that the nation has somehow solved the problem. There remain great disparities in racial and ethnic groups,” Albert says. “While we recognize and give credit where credit is due, there’s still a lot of work to do.”

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