Teen birth rate low, but racial disparities persist

New numbers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show Minnesota has the eighth-lowest teen birth rate in the nation, but the rates are much higher among teens of color.

Nationally, the CDC found that the worst disparities between black teens and the general population occurred in the South and the Upper Midwest. Minnesota was among the 10 states with the highest teen birth rate among black teens.

Jennifer O'Brien, the adolescent health coordinator at the Minnesota Department of Health, said the state looks like it's doing well at first glance.

"But when you break it down by race and ethnicity, that's the real story in Minnesota. We have incredible disparities," she said.

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The rate overall is 27 births per 1,000 15- to 19-year-olds. For white teens the rate is about 18 births per 1,000 teens, but among blacks the rate is 80.

The highest rate is for Hispanic teens at 108 births per 1,000 teens, but Minnesota's rate for Hispanic teens lands near the middle when compared to other states.

O'Brien said the teen birth rate overall has dropped by about 25 percent since the 1990s, when officials began looking closely at the data. The racial disparities have been an issue for many years, and health officials have tried to address them through special programs targeting people of color.

Addressing the disparities is challenging because the reasons for them are complex, O'Brien said.

"There are many factors that go into this that affect the disparities, poverty could be one of them," O'Brien said. "It's something we've been watching a long time and have been really concerned about."

The CDC's national report on teen birth rates is available here.