If you are one of the conservative culture warriors who is certain that America's moral fabric is unraveling, then how do you square your sense of doom with the news that the U.S. teen birth rate is at an all-time low?
Teen childbearing has been generally on a long-term decline in the United States since the late 1950s. In spite of these declines, the U.S. teen birth rate remains one of the highest among other industrialized countries. Moreover, childbearing by teenagers continues to be a matter of public concern because of the elevated health risks for teen mothers and their infants. In addition, significant public costs are associated with teen childbearing, estimated at $10.9 billion annually [Brady E. Hamilton, Ph.D., and Stephanie J. Ventura, M.A., "Birth Rates for U.S. Teenagers Reach Historic Lows for All Age and Ethnic Groups," NCHS Data Brief, April 2012].
Now I suppose you could take the Sinophobe line that every child-bearing American woman do her duty for the Party and produce little warriors... but that's just crazy, right? And no rational observer can see teenagers having babies as a positive moral or economic indicator, right?
Here in the land of oppressive anti-abortion legislation and Leslee Unruh's hyperbole, South Dakota teenagers are still producing a few more babies than the national average. South Dakota's teen birth rate is 34.9 births per 1,000 girls ages 15 to 19. The national rate was about 34 per 1,000. South Dakota ranks 22nd in the nation. Wyoming and Montana have higher teen birth rates; Nebraska, North Dakota, Iowa, and Minnesota kids (teen birth rate in MN: 22.5, eighth lowest nationwide) do a better job of keeping it zipped or keeping it wrapped.
Related: The new South Dakota Youth Risk Behavior Survey for 2011 finds 47% of our teenagers reporting they've had sex. 15% say they've had sex with four or more partners. 35% say they've had sex in the last three months. 61% of those recent fornicators did so with a condom; 24% used birth control pills.