Why Aren’t We Celebrating the Decline of Black Teen Pregnancy Rates?

“Black teen pregnancy rates are higher than any other race”. I have heard this statement over and over again since I’ve worked as a sexuality educator. Yes, this is true, our teen pregnancy rates are higher than other racial groups. Health disparities are real, I get that, but our teen pregnancy rates are also the lowest that they have ever been. Yes, you heard that correctly! Teen pregnancy rates are at an all time low, even among Black teens.

Essence magazine reported and celebrated this historic moment back in 2013. Since 2013, the Black teen pregnancy and birth rates have continued to decline. The birth rate for Black teens ages 15-19 hit it’s peak in 1990 at 118.2 per 1000 persons (CDC, 2016). In 2015, the Black teen birth rate was drastically lower at 31.8 per 1000 persons (CDC, 2016). In, 2013 teen pregnancy rates had decreased by 67% among Black teens since 1991 (The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, 2015).

Why does this sound shocking?

Well first off, we only hear about how “risky” Black teens are and how high their rates compare to White teens. Just because Black teens have pregnancy and birth rates does not mean that they are “risky” or engaging in “riskier behaviors” than their white peers.  This could be a result of Black teens being  less likely to have access to comprehensive sex education and/or have less community health resources.

For Harriet Blogger, Raisa Habersham wrote:

“Sex education doesn’t just prevent pregnancies or sexually transmitted diseases, it enables black women to make important decisions about their bodies and sexual and reproductive health, because they have been equipped with safer sex knowledge and healthy body image practices beyond what is presented to them by mainstream media. Hiding potentially life-saving information from them only perpetuates the idea that black teen girls are invaluable unless used for someone else’s benefit. Emphasizing sex education among adolescents not only reinforces why Black women matter in a society that works effortlessly to deny us simple rights, but instills in us the self-esteem we need to combat the media’s and society’s depictions of our sexuality. Ultimately, equipping Black girls and young women with sexual health knowledge allows us to take true ownership of our bodies and sexual agency.”


As sexuality educators we are constantly fighting for funding, resources and the rights of our students, that we oftentimes forget to reflect on our progress.  So let’s all take a moment to stop and celebrate the fact that we are making progress. We must also celebrate the teens themselves. They are the real MVPs. Let’s give them the credit! Ultimately the decline in Black teens’ pregnancy and birth rates are a result of their decisions.




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