More recently, both better contraceptive use and less sex have contributed to the lowering of rates.
Given that four out of five teen births are to an unwed mother, this drop in the teen birthrate contributed to the leveling off of the proportion of children born outside marriage after 1994 (figure 2).
Teen birthrates had also declined in the 1970s and early 1980s but in this earlier period all of the decline was due to increased abortion.
Significantly, all of the teen birthrate decreases in the 1990s were due to fewer pregnancies, not more abortions.
However, many experts believe it was some combination of greater public and private efforts to prevent teen pregnancy, the new messages about work and child support embedded in welfare reform, more conservative attitudes among the young, fear of AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases, the availability of more effective forms of contraception, and perhaps the strong economy.
Some of these factors have undoubtedly interacted, making it difficult to ever sort out their separate effects.As more and more teen girls put themselves at risk of an early pregnancy, pregnancy rates rose.More recently, efforts to encourage teens to take a pledge not to have sex before marriage have had some success in delaying the onset of sex.Although such efforts have been greatly expanded in recent years, they are still relatively small.State spending on teen pregnancy prevention averages only about a year per teenaged girl.The survey shows that states have dramatically increased their efforts to reduce teen pregnancy (figure 3).These efforts include everything from the formation of statewide task forces to more emphasis on sex education in the public schools and statewide media campaigns.What matters is not so much the label but rather what a particular program includes, what the teacher believes, and how that plays out in the classroom.A strong abstinence message is totally consistent with public values, but the idea that the federal government can, or should, rigidly prescribe what goes on in the classroom through detailed curricular guidelines makes little sense.The other includes a range of services such as tutoring and career counseling along with sex education and reproductive health services.Both have been replicated in diverse communities and evaluated by randomly assigning teens to a program and control group.