One of the best indicators of strong families and a sustainable population trajectory is when all, or most, births stem from planned, wanted pregnancies, as we discuss here.

And Idaho, Oregon, and Washington all try, at least, to measure the share of babies born who were conceived on purpose, though only Washington does so regularly. And even Washington is typically years behind in reporting its data. (Don’t blame the state; it’s the federal government that’s slow in tabulating and analyzing the numbers.)

Washington’s Department of Health has just shared with me the latest figures for Washington, which date from 2001 and 2002. The figures show that 39 percent of babies born in Washington in those two years were conceived at a time when the mother either wanted to be pregnant only at a later date or when the mother never (again) wanted to be pregnant. In 2002, for example, 9 percent of Washington births were from unwanted pregnancies and 30 percent were from too-early pregnancies.

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  • Among teens, not surprisingly, the unwanted share drops to 8 percent, but the too-soon share doubles to 61 percent.

    Unfortunately, the data are drawn from a survey that may be too small to reliably reflect the subtle annual shifts in the “unintended rate.” So some of the variation that shows up in this chart is statistical “noise,” not real change.

    That’s unfortunate because this gauge is critical: unintended births are a leading indicator of all manner of social, child, and family problems, as the national Institutes of Medicine has documented.

    Cascadia needs to know precisely what share of its babies are born wanted.