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Adolescent birth rates, preterm births and adolescent injury deaths declining, report says

July 07, 2011|By Thomas H. Maugh II, Los Angeles Times/For the Booster Shots blog
  • A new government report details the health of America's children, such as these at the Boys & Girls Club of Garden Grove.
A new government report details the health of America's children,… (Mark Boster )

The rate of births among teenagers, preterm births, injury deaths for teens and binge drinking are all declining, and that's good news for America's children, according to a new government report issued Thursday. But more young teens are using illicit drugs, more are likely to be living in poverty and fewer have parents who are working full-time, according to the report, "America's Children: Key National Indicators of Well-Being 2011."

The report was compiled by the Federal Interagency Forum on Child and Family Statistics, a working group of 22 federal agencies that collect, analyze and disseminate data on issues relating to children and families.

Last year, according to the report, there were 74.2 million children 17 or younger in the United States, about 24% of the population. About 54% of those children were Caucasian, but that proportion is expected to drop below half by 2023. By 2050, whites will account for only 38% of U.S. children; Hispanics will account for 39%.

About 66% of children lived with two parents in 2010, down one percentage point from the previous year and 11 percentage points from 1980. About 23% lived only with their mothers, 3% only with their fathers and 4% with neither of their parents. Among the 3 million children who did not live with parents, 54% lived with grandparents, 21% with other relatives and 24% with non-relatives.

In 2009, the rate of births among adolescents ages 15 to 17 was 20.1 per 1,000, down from 21.7 per 1,000 the previous year and 22.1 per 1,000 in 2007. The decreases continued a decline that has been apparent since 1991, briefly interrupted in 2005-07.

The percentage of infants born preterm dropped slightly to 12.2%, down from a high of 12.8% in 2006. The percentage of infants with low birth weight, however, did not decline.

The proportion of high school seniors who reported having five or more alcoholic beverages in a row in the previous two weeks dropped from 25% in 2009 to 23% in 2010. The rate of injury-related deaths, perhaps coincidentally, dropped from 44 per 100,000 in 2008 to 29 per 100,000 in 2009.

Counterbalancing those improvements, the proportion of eighth-graders who reported using illicit drugs in the previous 30 days rose from 8% in 2009 to 10% in 2010. Meanwhile, the percentage of children who had at least one parent employed full-time year-round dropped from 75% to 72%. Not coincidentally, the proportion of children living in poverty rose from 19% to 21%.

For the first time, this year's report also looked at adoption. It found that about 2.5% of children joined their families through adoption; 21.5% of those were of a different race than their adoptive parents. Adoptive children were also more likely to have health problems: 29% of adoptees had moderate to severe health problems, compared with 12% of all children.

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