We previously wrote about the plummeting teenage pregnancy rates in the U.S. — especially in Connecticut, where rates fell by 43 percent from 2008 to 2013, best in the nation.
But there’s something we didn’t explore in the previous piece: ethnic disparities.
In Connecticut, the birth rate for Hispanic teens was seven times that for white teens in 2013 — the highest disparity in the nation. And the birthrate for black teens was four higher than for white teens — the third highest disparity in the nation.
That said, from 2008 to 2013, these disparities got smaller in almost every state for both black and Hispanic teens — but in most places, including Connecticut, it was only by a sliver, according to data from the Health Indicators Warehouse looking at 15- to 19-year-olds.
But even with these massive disparities, teenage pregnancy rates fell drastically among every ethnic group in Connecticut, especially Hartford County.
What causes these disparities?
Research shows poverty is both a cause — and effect — of teenage pregnancy. In fact, two in three young, unmarried mothers are poor and are less likely to complete high school or college, according to a report from the National Conference of State Legislatures.
So in areas where income disparities between whites and minorities are larger, so are the teenage birthrate disparities.
The chart below looks at income disparities between white and Hispanic households, and white and black households — then compares them to disparities in teenage pregnancy rates. (We’re using the 2013 American Community Survey, five-year estimates.)
The correlation is incredibly high for both minority groups, and Connecticut has both the largest income disparity among Hispanics and white households, and the largest teenage birthrate disparity.
Large drops for Hispanics and the South
Hispanic teens have historically had higher birthrates, which the Pew Research Center has explored. But in the last several years, Hispanic birthrates have dropped quite significantly. In fact, in some Southern states — like Mississippi, Alabama and Georgia — the Hispanic teen birthrate dropped by 60 to 75 births per 1,000 teens.
But in the Midwest and Texas, Hispanic birthrates did not fall quite as quickly. In 2013, the states with the highest Hispanics teenage birthrates were all in the middle of the country.
In Connecticut, the birthrate dropped by 29.1 births per 1,000 among Hispanic girls, 19.4 among black girls and 5.3 among white girls.
Hartford County had massive drops
But if we drill down further, Hartford County’s Hispanic teens birthrate dropped an astounding amount. For every 1,000 Hispanic teens, there were about 40 fewer births in 2013 compared to 2008.
Among black teens, Hartford County and New Haven County both had big drops.
As we mentioned in our previous story, the City of Hartford received a federal grant in 2010 to prevent teenage pregnancy. But the grant was specifically to pay attention to the African American and Latino populations in Hartford.
“We had to very conscientiously serve these specific youth,” said Carmen Chaparro, the City of Hartford’s project manager for teenage pregnancy prevention.
Chaparro said there is a lack of sex education curricula that is written and implemented in Spanish — which is something that needs to be worked on — even though “the majority of [Latino kids] speak English and understand English really well.”
Among white teenagers, the biggest drop was in Windham County, followed by New London County.