Some more good, or at least interesting, news for 2004: teen birth rates in Cascadia hit an all-time low. There were just under 27 live births per 1,000 women between the ages of 15 and 19, according to final data for the year. That’s probably not just the lowest rate in recent history, but the lowest since humans first inhabited this place.
(Just to be clear: we spend a lot of our time comparing trends in BC, Washington, Oregon, and Idaho—the main political jurisdictions whose rivers flow through the temperate rainforests on the Pacific Northwest coast. For short, we call the region "Cascadia." End of public service announcement.)
Teen births throughout the region have fallen by about 57 percent since 1970. But they’ve fallen unevenly, as the chart shows. In the Northwest states, teen pregnancy rates are about half of what they were in 1970. In British Columbia, however, teen pregnancies fell by an astonishing four-fifths over the same period. Or, said differently—teen birthrates in BC and the Northwest states used to be quite comparable. Now, the teen birthrate is more than three times as high in the Northwest US as in BC.
As with many social and environmental trends, BC more and more looks like, well, it’s in a different country than Washington, Oregon, and Idaho. Gasoline consumption, sprawl, health, teen births—on these measures and many others, BC substantially outperforms the Northwest states; and on many of them BC’s lead just keeps getting bigger. I’m not sure what this means; perhaps nothing. But it may also be a sign that the politics and cultures of these neighbors are gradually diverging.
Regardless, given the similarities in climate, language, and history between the two halves of Cascadia, the differences between BC and the US Northwest demonstrate—fairly convincingly it seems to me—that minor differences in policy and outlook can gradually add up to huge differences in outcomes.