A common misconception about teen pregnancy is the belief that it is a problem mainly among the urban poor teenagers.  Not true.  The teen birth rate in rural areas is nearly one-third higher than in the rest of the U.S., according to a study released on Thursday by the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy.

The study examined county-level data from the National Center for Health Statistics from 2010 and defines rural counties as those with populations under 50,000 and metropolitan counties as those with populations of 50,000 or more.

Key Findings from the Report

•In 2010, the teen birth rate in rural counties was nearly one-third higher compared to the rest of the country (43 per 1,000 girls age 15 to 19 vs. 33).
•The teen birth rate in rural counties surpassed that in suburban counties and even that in major urban centers.
•The teen birth rate was higher in rural counties than in other areas of the country regardless of age or race/ethnicity.
•Even so, rural counties accounted for a minority of teen births (20%), which is not surprising given that only 16% of teen girls live in rural counties.
*Between 1990 and 2010, the birth rate among teens in rural counties declined by 32%, far slower than the decline in major urban centers (49%) and in suburban counties (40%)

Factors Behind Variation in Teen Birth Rates

So what does this all mean?   While teen pregnancy risk is dropping overall nationally,  it is dropping at slower rates among rural teens.   The report suggests that there is a need for more teen pregnancy prevention efforts in rural communities and that perhaps rural teens should be considered as a particularly high risk group among those who set health priorities.

In addition, rural teens' ability to access birth control "lags far behind availability for teens living in urban and metro areas," said Julia De Clerque, a research fellow and investigator at the University of North Carolina who was not involved in the study (Healy, USA Today, 2/21).

To view the whole report, click HERE.

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