Pregnancies, Births and Abortions in the United States, 1973–2016: National and State Trends by Age
This publication has been updated, please see here for the latest version.
The Guttmacher Institute calculates comprehensive historical statistics on the incidence of pregnancy, birth and abortion for people of reproductive age in the United States (see Definitions). Our most recent release includes national statistics covering the period from 1973 to 2016, the most recent year for which comparable data are available; state-level statistics are available for selected years from 1988 to 2016 (see Note). We highlight a few patterns in these new demographic estimates and include a series of interactive figures for further data exploration. An accompanying appendix discusses the methodology and sources used.
Documenting pregnancy, birth and abortion rates over time and by age-group helps illustrate broadly how people’s reproductive lives have changed over the past four decades. Guttmacher’s prior national- and state-level statistical reports have focused exclusively on individuals aged 24 or younger.1–8 In this report, we present data across all reproductive age-groups, as we believe that trends in pregnancy rates among younger people are better understood within this larger context.*
A few notable trends are highlighted below. The complete data set of all estimates (along with accompanying documentation) is publicly available at https://osf.io/kthnf in a variety of formats. Select estimates are also incorporated into the Guttmacher Institute’s Data Center, where users can generate interactive visualizations and custom tables.
The following interactive figures offer a selection of key measures that portray trends over time nationally and by state, as well as regionally. We describe notable patterns discoverable in each figure. Use the drop-down menu boxes in figure titles to change which data are displayed.
National levels and trends in pregnancy, birth and abortion (Appendix Tables 1–7)
- In 2016, pregnancy rates for women aged 24 or younger reached their lowest recorded levels. These rates continue a longstanding decline in pregnancy rates among people aged 24 or younger, which started in the late 1980s. In 2016, there were 15 pregnancies per 1,000 women aged 15–17 (down from a peak of 75 in 1989), 60 pregnancies per 1,000 women aged 18–19 (from a peak of 175 in 1991) and 115 pregnancies per 1,000 women aged 20–24 (from a peak of 202 in 1990).
- In contrast, pregnancy rates among older age-groups have been increasing since 1973; rates for those aged 35–39 and 40 or older reached historic highs in 2016, with rates of 73 and 18, respectively.
- Pregnancy rates reflect both birth and abortion rates, and these do not always move or change direction in tandem. The decline in the pregnancy rate among adolescents and young adults over the past two-and-a-half decades was the result of declines in both birth and abortion rates. Among women aged 30–34, 35–39, and 40 or older, the rate of abortions has stayed relatively stable since the late 1970s, during which time birth rates have consistently increased.
- Among all age-groups younger than 20, the beginning of the decline in the abortion rate in the late 1980s preceded the decline in the birth rate by several years. For example, among 15–17-year-olds, the birth rate peaked in 1991 (at 39 per 1,000 women), and the abortion rate peaked three years earlier, in 1988 (at 31 per 1,000 women).
State levels and trends in pregnancy, birth and abortion (Appendix Tables 8–40)
- Trends in pregnancy, birth and abortion rates followed broadly similar patterns across states from 1988 to 2016, and they mostly reflect trends at the national level. In every state, pregnancy rates among women aged 15–17, 18–19 and 20–24 declined from 1988 to 2016. During this same time period, pregnancy rates for those aged 30–34, 35–39, and 40 or older increased in every state, save one: Hawaii, which had a small decrease in the pregnancy rate among 30–34-year-olds from 1988 to 2016.
- In 2016, pregnancy rates among women aged 15–17, 18–19 and 20–24 were generally highest in the South and Southwest. Among women aged 30–34, 35–39, and 40 or older, rates were generally highest in the Northwest and Northeast.
Although pregnancy rates among women aged 24 or younger have been declining during the past two-and-a-half decades, rates among those older than age 30 have been increasing. These patterns reflect different underlying trends in birth and abortion rates: Pregnancy rate declines among young people have resulted from declines in both birth and abortion rates, while the abortion rates among older age-groups have stayed largely constant as birth rates have increased. Trends over time at the state level have largely mirrored national trends; however, there are strong geographic patterns: Pregnancy rates in 2016 were elevated among younger people in the South and Southwest, and for older age-groups in the Northwest and Northeast.
Definitions and Language Notes
Counts of pregnancies include births, abortions and fetal losses (i.e., miscarriages and stillbirths). The National Center for Health Statistics provides annual counts of births in the United States, as compiled in the National Vital Statistics System from data derived from birth certificates. Counts of abortions come from the Guttmacher Institute’s periodic national Abortion Provider Census. Counts of fetal losses are estimated as a proportion of births and abortions. (For additional information about methods, sources and citations, see Methodology Appendix above.)
A demographic rate is defined as the number of events (in this case, pregnancies, births or abortions) divided by the number of individuals who could experience the event. The accuracy of demographic rates depends on having accurate counts of both events and the population of people who are able to become pregnant. In reality, that population includes some proportions of cisgender women, of transgender men and of people whose gender is nonbinary. To our knowledge, however, there are no comprehensive estimates of the number or proportion of the population that is able to become pregnant. As a proxy, the population we use for calculation of rates is the number of women in a given age-group (the denominator), as reported by the Census Bureau. Consequently, throughout the text, we describe rates as being among women, although counts of events (the numerator: births, abortions, fetal losses or all pregnancies) include outcomes among all people able to become pregnant, regardless of their gender.
Note on Historical Estimates
The Guttmacher Institute has published periodic surveillance reports on adolescent and young-adult pregnancy statistics over the past four decades.1–8 This report presents pregnancy trends for a wide range of age-groups (younger than 15, 15–17, 18–19, 20–24, 25–29, 30–34, 35–39 and older than 40) nationally and by state.
Estimates in this report differ from those in prior publications, as previously published estimates were recalculated using an updated methodology and additional data now available for specific states (see Methodology Appendix above). As new data become available, we plan to continue making iterative improvements to our methodology; consequently, future reports will also include recalculated estimates for all available years. Prior data releases will continue to be available for purposes of comparison and to maintain reproducibility of analyses that used earlier versions of the data.
*The Guttmacher Institute has collaborated in the past with researchers at the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) to produce national pregnancy rates for all U.S. residents; these do not include state-level estimates, however, and the most recent report published by the NCHS with these statistics was for 2010.9
1. Henshaw SK and Van Vort J, Teenage abortion, birth and pregnancy statistics: an update, Family Planning Perspectives, 1989, 21(2):85–88, https://www.jstor.org/stable/2135559.
2. Henshaw SK, Teenage abortion, birth and pregnancy statistics by state, 1988, Family Planning Perspectives, 1993, 25(3):122–126, https://www.jstor.org/stable/2136160.
3. Henshaw SK, Teenage abortion and pregnancy statistics by state, 1992, Family Planning Perspectives, 1997, 29(3):115–122, https://www.guttmacher.org/journals/psrh/1997/05/teenage-abortion-and-p….
4. Henshaw SK and Feivelson DJ, Teenage abortion and pregnancy statistics by state, 1996, Family Planning Perspectives, 2000, 32(6):272–280, https://www.guttmacher.org/journals/psrh/2000/11/teenage-abortion-and-p….
5. Guttmacher Institute, U.S. Teenage Pregnancy Statistics: Overall Trends, Trends by Race and Ethnicity and State-by-State Information, 2004, https://www.guttmacher.org/sites/default/files/pdfs/pubs/state_pregnanc….
6. Kost K and Henshaw SK, U.S. Teenage Pregnancies, Births and Abortions, 2008: National Trends by Age, Race and Ethnicity, New York: Guttmacher Institute, 2012, https://www.guttmacher.org/sites/default/files/pdfs/pubs/USTPtrends08.p….
7. Kost K and Henshaw SK, U.S. Teenage Pregnancies, Births and Abortions, 2010: National and State Trends by Age, Race and Ethnicity, New York: Guttmacher Institute, 2014, https://www.guttmacher.org/report/us-teenage-pregnancies-births-and-abo….
8. Kost K, Maddow-Zimet I and Arpaia A, Pregnancies, Births and Abortions Among Adolescents and Young Women in the United States, 2013: National and State Trends by Age, Race and Ethnicity, New York: Guttmacher Institute, 2017, https://www.guttmacher.org/report/us-adolescent-pregnancy-trends-2013.
9. Curtin SC, Abma JC and Kost K, 2010 pregnancy rates among U.S. women, Health E-Stat, Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics, 2015, https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/hestat/pregnancy/2010_pregnancy_rates.htm.
Maddow-Zimet I, Kost K and Finn S, Pregnancies, Births and Abortions in the United States, 1973–2016: National and State Trends by Age, New York: Guttmacher Institute, 2020, https://www.guttmacher.org/report/pregnancies-births-abortions-in-unite….
This report was prepared by Isaac Maddow-Zimet, Kathryn Kost and Sean Finn, all of the Guttmacher Institute. It was edited by Jenny Sherman. Research support was provided by Ashley Little. Aletha Akers, Haley Ball, Joerg Dreweke, Liza Fuentes, Kimberly Lufkin and Elizabeth Nash reviewed the report and provided comments and suggestions. The Guttmacher Institute gratefully acknowledges the unrestricted funding it receives from many individuals and foundations—including major grants from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation and the David and Lucile Packard Foundation—which undergirds all of the Institute’s work.
- Methodology Appendix pregnancies-births-abortions-us-1973-2016-method-appendix.pdf
- Appendix Tables pregnancies-births-abortions-us-1973-2016-appendix-tables.pdf