New numbers (see table A10, here) confirm that teen birth rates in Washington fell to a new low in 2003. For the first time ever, Washington’s teen birth rate dropped below British Columbia’s!!!
That is, BC as of 1978.
As the chart below shows, the good news of the past decade—that teen births have been falling steadily in Washington (as they have in other Northwest states)–is tempered by the fact that they’re still remarkably high in comparison with our neighbors north of the 49th parallel, whose teen birthrates are more typical of the world’s developed nations.
Fertility patterns are by no means uniform in the state. In urban King County, for example, there were about 19 births for every 1,000 teenaged women—well below the state average (though more than half again as high as BC’s rate). But this low rate is more than balanced out by the high birthrates in many poorer and more rural counties; Yakima County, for example, had a birthrate of 74 per 1,000 teens. (There’ll be more on this in our Cascadia Scorecard release next week.)
But perhaps the most important thing that this chart shows is that slow, steady changes in birthrates have amounted to a slow-motion revolution in fertility. Year to year, we might not notice how much patterns of childbearing are changing. But over time, the percent-or-two per year changes are adding up to substantial delays in childbearing—and, in all likelihood, the lowest teen birthrates in the region’s history.