New Teen Birth Rate Data. New Statewide Solutions.
May is #SexEdForAll Month, an opportunity to raise awareness of sex education in schools and communities nationwide. Healthy Futures of Texas (HFTX) is honored to recognize this important month that, since 2019, has been hosted by the Sex Education Collaborative, a national coalition of sexual and reproductive health, rights, and justice organizations.
Together, we can ensure equitable access to sex education for ALL young people nationwide. Together, HFTX and our Texas-based partners can advance informed sexual health decisions for youth across our state and to do this we need to understand the current challenges for teens, parents, and schools, as well as how we can rally around the solutions.
What Happened to Teen Birth Rates in Texas During the Pandemic?
In newly released data from Healthy Futures of Texas, the 2021 Texas Adolescent Health Report (TAHR) shows the pregnancies that occurred after the start of the COVID-19 pandemic when many schools were closed to in-person learning. Texas teenagers are giving birth at a rate that is 46 percent higher than the national average. The Texas teen birth rate was 20.3 per 1,000 teens, while the U.S. teen birth rate was 13.9 for the same age group – a 46 percent difference.
While the overall teen birth rate in Texas and nationwide declined by nine percent from the prior year – continuing a long trend of decreasing teen birth rates – significant disparities exist across racial and geographic lines, the data shows.
In Texas, birth rates among Hispanic and Black teens are 2.4 times and 1.9 times higher than their White peers, respectively. Birth rates were 28.17 per 1,000 for Hispanic teens, 22.29 per 1,000 for Black teens, and 11.71 per 1,000 for White teens.
The largest number of teen births in Texas occurred in the state’s four most populous counties:
However, teen birth rates were highest in more rural counties, especially those in West Texas and the Rio Grande Valley. These counties had the highest teen birth rates:
Data for smaller counties will be available later this year. County-level 2021 data are available for counties with a total population over 100,000. See the county reports online here.
Structural issues such as poverty and lack of access to health care and sexual education information can contribute to teen pregnancy rates. Additionally, a new evaluation finds that Texas’ opt-in policy presents barriers to receiving sexual health and abuse prevention education.
New report finds that ‘opt-in’ policies may reduce access to information among at-risk students
Texas is one of five states that require written parent consent for sexual health education and the only state to require parent opt-in for abuse prevention instruction. In 2021, the Texas Legislature passed new laws requiring schools to obtain written parental consent (“opt-in”) before students could receive sex education or abuse prevention instruction.
To evaluate the impact of this policy on the implementation of sexual health and abuse prevention education among youth in Texas schools, a diverse, bipartisan sample of Texas school representatives was surveyed by UTHealth Houston and Healthy Futures of Texas to assess their attitudes and experiences.
A majority of the respondents view the opt-in policy as a barrier to receiving sexual health and abuse prevention education. The opt-in policy is set to expire in 2024, but the Texas Senate has advanced legislation that (if passed) would make this requirement permanent.
New Brand, New Solutions
As part of its enhanced approach, Healthy Futures of Texas is launching ‘Talk About It Texas,’ a statewide effort to give young people accurate information and safe spaces to talk honestly about sexual and reproductive health with their parents, friends, families, and educators. The initiative aims to increase equitable access to sexual health education, healthcare, training, and technical assistance, especially in minority and rural communities.
‘Talk About It Texas’ includes creating sex education and leadership training programs for youth and advocacy groups in high schools and universities; providing parents and caregivers resources to help have positive conversations with their children, and; creating evidence-based sexual health curricula to help young people make informed decisions about sex and relationships.