What's behind the drop in U.S. teen birth rates?

The report, from the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows that teen birth rates fell at least 15% in all states with the exception of West Virginia and North Dakota during the years 2007 to 2011. Rates in Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Nevada and Utah fell by 30% or more. …

“The short answer is that it is a combination of less sex and more contraception. Teenagers have a greater number of methods of contraceptives to choose from,” says Bill Albert, the chief program officer of The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy. “The menu of contraceptive methods has never been longer.”

It’s a validation for public health programs that have advocated safe sex messages and sex education in schools; critics of that strategy raised concerns that such efforts would only promote more sexual activity among adolescents and drive up teen pregnancy rates. Studies do show, however, that more contraceptive options work only if teens understand how to use them appropriately. So quality sex education may partly be responsible for driving down teen birth rates. “When we look at the menu of proven programs, programs that have been shown to actually move the needle, that number has grown over the last years, and to the credit of the federal government, they have invested in it,” says Albert.