Teen birth rates have sharply declined for decades – nationally and statewide. However, despite declines, a baby is born to a teen mom in Dallas every 4 hours. Significant changes are needed, especially in marginalized communities, to curtail this.
A new Healthy Futures of Texas report highlights the teen birth rates across 33 of Texas’ largest counties, including Dallas. The report shows inequities in teen birth rates among teens who are Hispanic and Black, LGBTQ, who live in rural communities, who have experience in the child welfare / foster care system, and who have experienced at least one prior pregnancy.
“Addressing racial and geographic inequities requires expanding access to resources,” said Jen Biundo, Senior Director of Policy and Research at Healthy Futures of Texas, “Hispanic & Black teens in Dallas have the highest birth rate out of surveyed demographics. Birth rates for Hispanic teens are 3.5 times higher than white teens.”
Dallas & Tarrant County Teen Birth Rates:
- The Dallas County rate is above the Texas teen birth rate of 20.3 per 1,000 teens aged 15-19 in 2021.
- In Dallas County, a baby was born to a teen mother every 4 hours in 2021, and once every 7 hours in Tarrant County.
- There were 2,260 births to teens aged 15-19 in Dallas County in 2020 and 34 births to girls aged 15-19. Tarrant County had 1,325 births to teens aged 15-19.
- 11% of Texas teen births occur in Dallas County, and 6% occur in Tarrant County.
- In Dallas County, 16% of teen births are to teens with at least one child, while the rate is 14% in Tarrant County. Texas has one of the nation’s highest rates of repeat teen pregnancy.
- Tarrant County’s rate is 16% lower than the Texas rate but 22% above the US rate.
Multiple issues are contributing to these teen pregnancy disparities among DFW teens.
One of those issues is the lack of health insurance.
In Dallas County, 33% of young adults are without health insurance compared to the Texas average of 29%. Poverty and lack of access to health care and sexual health education among teens and parents are vital factors.
“In Dallas County, Parkland is the main system that provides funding streams, and they do a great job, but people don’t know they can go and get free contraception – they don’t know to look for it,” Biundo said.
Lack of access to sex education is also a primary issue contributing to the numbers.
“We have seen the state do some things that are beneficial for health education, and we have seen them do some things that make it harder for schools to offer sex education,” Biundo said. “This is just so important for ensuring our kids have the information they need about their bodies.”
Last year, Dallas ISD trustees took steps to help close those gaps. In May 2022, trustees voted to expand the DISD sex education curriculum that covers gender identity and birth control, according to The Dallas Morning News. School board members have sought to reduce teen pregnancy, especially given that Dallas has one of the state’s highest teen birth rates of any major Texas city.
In Texas, the local school districts have a lot of control over the sex education they teach, according to Biundo, who cited Dallas ISD and others in the surrounding area that offer more inclusive sex education coursework.
Throughout surveys and conversations between parents and teenagers, there is a consensus that both parties want the information.
Parents were asked how they want their children to learn about sex, and they answered ‘from them,’ along with doctors.
Students said they wanted to be taught by similar parties; however, when asked where do you learn about sex, responses were, “From friends, social media, and porn,” Biundo said. “Historically, Texas has not done a safe job in providing sex education.”
Safe and open conversations are one solution to thwart the traction of these numbers, Biundo pointed to, along with increased access and more robust economic opportunities.
“This isn’t just one conversation – it will be a series of little conversations; you find those teachable moments and talk about all the things, such as healthy relationships and everything it encompasses,” she said.
According to Biundo, policy decisions have also played a pivotal role in what the numbers show regarding the uptick in teen birth rates in minority communities.
“We think that it is everyone’s responsibility – it’s not just the responsibility of that teen, but the parent, community, and also the policymakers who are making the sex education and reproductive health laws,” Biundo said.
The statewide nonprofit has hubs in Dallas, Austin, and San Antonio focused on increasing access to sexual health info, education, and preventative resources. They also offer TalkAboutItTexas.com to give young people safe spaces to talk frankly and honestly about sexual and reproductive health with their friends, parents, and educators.