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US government reports decline in teen birth rate and binge drinking, rise in poverty and drug abuse

Sunday, July 10, 2011

The US government has released a report with mixed news on the health of American children, ranging from a fall in the rates of teen births, premature births, deaths from injury, and binge drinking, to a rise in the rates of drug abuse, poverty, and obesity.

The report, named America's Children: Key National Indicators of Well-Being, 2011, was prepared by the Federal Interagency Forum on Child and Family Statistics, with participants from 22 federal government agencies and their private partners. This year's report — the group's fifteenth — presents 41 indicators on children's "family and social environment, economic circumstances, health care, physical environment and safety, behavior, education, and health".

The teen birth rate dropped from 21.7 per 1,000 girls in 2008 to 20.1 per 1,000 girls in 2009. This trend has been going on for a while, with only a slight "blip" a few years ago, according to Edward Sondik, the director of the National Center for Health Statistics in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The CDC is unsure of the causes of this trend, but teen births are of particular concern to federal health officials due to the socioeconomic burden of pregnancy and childbearing.

The rates of premature births, infant deaths, teen injuries, and binge drinking among 12th graders also fell during the same time period. Math scores for 8th and 12th graders rose by 2009.

On the other hand, the report observes a rising rate of illegal drug usage, and of children living in poverty or inadequate housing. These characteristics may correlate with the marital status of the children's parents: 41 percent of babies are born to unmarried mothers.

The percentage of children with asthma remained at about 9.6 percent from 2008 to 2009, but steadily rose from 8.8 percent in 2001.

The report also features a new section on adoption, which is generally preferred over long-term foster care or other alternatives. About 2.5 percent of US children are adopted, and 21.5 percent are of a different race than their guardians.


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