The kids these days…
They’re more than alright… they, as a cohort, engage in far less dumb, risk seeking behavior than my cohort did at the same point in my life.
There are two major components of the decline. The first is that kids these days are far less stupid and idiotic and risk taking thrill seekers compared to twenty years ago. This would be Kevin Drum’s Lead hypothesis. As teenagers grow up with far lower exposures to known neurotoxins that impede judgement and encourage short term gratification, they use more judgement and think about the future a little more. They’re still teenagers but they are not stupid. Compared to my teen years, teens are having less sex. However over the past nine years, the amount of sex teens are having is fairly constant.
The other major component of the decline is far more frequent and effective contraception use. Guttmacher found that the entire decline in pregnancy rates among teens was the uptake in effective birth control utilization:
Sexual activity in the last 3 months did not change significantly from 2007 to 2012. Pregnancy risk declined among sexually active adolescent women (p = .046), with significant increases in the use of any method (78%–86%, p = .046) and multiple methods (26%–37%, p = .046). Use of highly effective methods increased significantly from 2007 to 2009 (38%–51%, p = .010). Overall, the PRI declined at an annual rate of 5.6% (p = .071) from 2007 to 2012 and correlated with birth and pregnancy rate declines. Decomposition estimated that this decline was entirely attributable to improvements in contraceptive use.
So the question going forward is whether or not we’ll see those trend lines break?
I think we will. The Federal government will go all in again on ineffective abstinence based misinformation. Essential health benefits will be redefined to exclude most highly effective birth control methods (oral hormones, IUDs, implants etc). Awareness of what works will decrease while access will decline. If we hold the amount of sex being had constant, that means more pregnancies.
I also predict that the older teens will see a lower bounce in their age adjusted pregnancy risk than younger teens. Older teens have some money, they have some knowledge of how to work the system and most importantly, the women who know that they are at high risk of unplanned pregnancy have had the ability to get long acting and reversible contraception (IUDs) to control their risk and maintain their autonomy. Younger teens in the Trump administration won’t have those advantages. I expect births to mothers under the age of 15 to increase at a higher rate than births to mothers at age 18.