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US teen births fall to new record low, government says

ATLANTA (AP) _ The teen birth rate fell to a record low in the United States last year, continuing a steady drop that began in the 1990s, the government said Tuesday.

For every 1,000 girls ages 15 to 19, there were 48.7 births last year _ the lowest rate in the six decades the statistic has been kept, the National Center for Health Statistics said.

Last year was the ninth straight year the rate has declined. It has dropped 22 percent since 1991.

``The continued decline in the teen birth rate is very encouraging news,'' said Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson. ``When teens postpone parenthood, it benefits not only their lives, but society as a whole.''

Analysts have attributed the steady decline to a broad range of factors, including more awareness of HIV/AIDS, increased abstinence and the economic boom of the 1990s, which led many teens to put off starting families so they could take jobs.

The nation's highest teen birth rate was in 1957, roughly 96 births per 1,000.
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