A few weeks ago, I questioned whether conservatives have reasonable grounds to be optimistic about teenagers’ sexual mores. My thoughts were in response to an article by Peter Wehner and Yuval Levin, which argued that the social indicatores point toward progress. With respect to teenage pregnancy, they wrote:
More generally, we are seeing important progress in critical areas of youth behavior. Since 1991 (a peak year), the birth rate for teenagers aged fifteen to nineteen has decreased by 35 percent. The number of high-school students who have reported ever having sexual intercourse has declined by more than 10 percent.
Today the needle on the cultural compass shifted directions. The Center for Disease Control announced that for the first time in 14 years, pregnancies among 15-19 year-olds have risen:
The report shows that between 2005 and 2006, the birth rate for teenagers aged 15-19 rose 3 percent, from 40.5 live births per 1,000 females aged 15-19 in 2005 to 41.9 births per 1,000 in 2006. This follows a 14-year downward trend in which the teen birth rate fell by 34 percent from its all-time peak of 61.8 births per 1,000 in 1991.
“It’s way too early to know if this is the start of a new trend, ” said Stephanie Ventura, head of the Reproductive Statistics Branch at CDC. “But given the long-term progress we’ve witnessed, this change is notable. ”
While no one wants confirmation of their hypothesis that things are not as well as the numbers seem, today’s news serves as a poignant reminder that the deeper causes of adolescent–young adult!–pregnancies are still present among us, even if their expression has shifted the last fifteen years.
(HT: Scott Williams of FamilyLife’s Culture Watch).