Teen pregnancies have fallen to record lows. But according to a new report from Guttmacher Institute that breaks out data by each state, the decline is uneven across the country. New Mexico had the highest teen pregnancy rate in the nation in 2008 (the latest available data), followed by Mississippi, Texas, Nevada, Arkansas, and Arizona:
These states have something in common: They have poor sexual education in schools, and consequently tend to have lower rate of contraception use among teens.
New Mexico, the state that tops the list, has sex and HIV education in public schools. However, the sexual health information is not required to be medically accurate, according to the Guttmacher Institute. Wonkblog’s Sarah Kliff points out that contraceptive use is lower for New Mexico high school students too, at 60.5 percent compared to 75 percent nationally. Other states with higher teen pregnancy — Arizona, Texas, and Arkansas — do not require sex ed at all, and if it is taught, schools are required to stress abstinence:
The decline in teen pregnancy is “almost exclusively” a result of more contraceptive use, according to Guttmacher. Birth control use is up to 47 percent of sexually active teens, while teens’ use of both condoms and hormonal contraception rose from 16 percent to 23 percent in recent years.
But nationally, one in four teens have received abstinence-only education, with no instruction on birth control. Far more states still emphasize abstinence-only sex education over contraception, when they do teach teens about their own bodies at all.