Teen Pregnancy: It’s (Statistically) A Southern Thang

Country music, Chick-fil-A, and teen pregnancy: three things that can be found anywhere in America but are heavily concentrated in the South. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released reports last week which show the top 10 states with the highest rate of pregnant teens in 2008 sweep across the Bible belt: Kentucky, Tennessee, Arkansas, Mississippi, Louisiana, Oklahoma, and Texas (along with New Mexico, Arizona and Nevada, which are more in the Southwest). Obviously, geographic location alone doesn’t make someone eligible for “16 & Pregnant.” Experts say the same states full of pregnant teens are the ones in which “sex education” teaches abstinence as the only form of birth control.The method of sex ed taught in certain states can adversely affect certain ethnic groups concentrated there. According to ColorLines, an online magazine about race, the rates of pregnant black and Latina teens are two and three times the rate of white teens across the country and the South and Southwest have higher percentages of black and Latino residents. Furthermore, the place white teens have the highest pregnancy rates is in the South.

Meanwhile, states in the Northeast and West, where comprehensive sex education is more frequently taught, have the lowest rates of pregnant teens. “This new CDC report makes it is crystal clear that a smaller percentage of teens are getting pregnant in states like California, New York and New Jersey that provide students with comprehensive, evidence-based sex education,” Leslie Kantor of Planned Parenthood Federation of America told CNN.

While teen birth rates have been falling (except for a brief rise) for the last 20 years, it is still unacceptable that the United States has a larger population of knocked-up teens than anywhere else in the industrialized world. You’d think all this data would be enough to finally give abstinence-only sex ed curriculum, y’all.