Mass. Teen Birth Rate Hits Record Low; Black Infant Mortality Tops Whites

WBUR’s Martha Bebinger reports on new data released by the state Department of Public Health:

Seventeen out of 1000 teenagers in Massachusetts had a baby in 2010. That’s half the national average. Patricia Quinn, director of the Massachusetts Alliance on Teen Pregnancy, says teenagers today do a better job with contraception than did their parents.



“That’s not a message that adults wrap their heads around on a regular basis that young people could be doing more right than we did when we were teens and that is definitely the case when it comes to teen pregnancy and sexual behavior,” Quinn said.

Quinn says state figures out today also shows that teen abortion rates have declined 68% since a peak in 1989. And teen births rates are at a record low.

Black babies continue to a have much greater chance of dying before their first birthday in Massachusetts as compared to white infants….

The Public Health report says the black infant mortality rate is almost two and half times that of white infants. The gap has been higher, but health leaders say the numbers are still unacceptable. Department of Public Health interim commissioner Lauren Smith.

“This just remains a call to us to focus even more intensely on the health of women of childbearing age before they even become pregnant,” Smith said.

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  • Reasonable?

    I really need more information to figure out how to think about this issue.
    1. What is the mortality rate difference?
    2. How much of this is socioeconomic?
    3. Are there behaviors associated with the divergent outcomes (late initiation of prenatal care, unplanned pregnancy etc)?

    3. Are there model programs or subgroups that are outliers from this trend that might be a useful model for change (positive deviants).

    What can families planning on having children do to reduce their risks?
    What is actionable here?

    Unless race is the true driver (which is hard to believe), we need a deeper dive to get under this issue.

    • Dennis Byron


      Which issue? This article conflates the ages of mothers with the morbidity of infants. The two sets of statistics are not related UNLESS part of the story was left out. What is the race of the teen mothers in proportion to the general racial breakdown of Massachusetts’ mothers (or better yet of females born in Massachusetts between 1992 and 2000). What is the age of the mothers of the infants that died in proportion to the general age breakdown of mothers?

    • Martha Bebinger

      Reasonable – sorry for the delayed response.

      The full births report is here:, pg. 40 is infant mortality.

      A story I wrote in 2010 lead me to believe that racism is the major contributor to the infant mortality gap: