Hispanics Drive Teen Birthrate

Mariana Minaya, Washington Post, July 27, 2007

The growing number of young Hispanic mothers is the primary cause for an uptick in Montgomery County’s teen pregnancies, according to state statistics presented yesterday to county leaders.

In the county, which has one of the lowest overall birthrates in the United States, the birthrate increased 16 percent from 2002 to 2005 among all women 15 to 19, according to a report by county staff. In the same period, births for women in that age group dropped nationally and statewide.

Births among Hispanic women 18 to 19, which have particularly driven the growth in teen pregnancies in Montgomery, have increased more than 30 percent in the past decade, according to the report.

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In Montgomery, births among black women 18 to 19 have declined in the past 10 years, and the birthrate for that group is nearing that of white women 18 to 19, the report said. Exact data were not available.

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Candace Kattar, executive director of Identity Inc., a nonprofit group in Gaithersburg that serves Latinos, said low-income and undocumented teen moms often might not see pregnancy as a barrier to goals such as an education or career.

“A lot of the teen Latino moms are actually quite happy to be pregnant as teenagers,” Kattar said.

A survey of Latino teens and adults by the National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy found that a significant portion of the Latino community does not see teen pregnancy in their community as a big deal, according to the Montgomery report, and only a small number thought it prevented teens from reaching their goals.

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The National Campaign survey showed that Latinas were less likely to talk to their parents about sex than other teenage girls. Advocates for curbing teen pregnancy said that more communication among parents and their children is critical.

Birth control remains a taboo topic for many Latina women visiting the Teen Connection, a Silver Spring-based clinic, said its executive director, Karen Butler-Colbert.

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Many pregnant Hispanic girls are not getting married but are staying in long-term situations similar to ones their mothers might have been in, “acompañadas,” or accompanied relationships, Kattar said.

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