Atlanta Teen-agers are having babies at the lowest rate in at least 60 years, and everyone is taking credit from religious groups that push abstinence to advocates for contraceptives and sex education in schools.
Analysts from several viewpoints agreed Tuesday on this much: Teens are more terrified than ever of sexually transmitted diseases, and they are putting off starting families to take jobs in the booming economy.
For every 1,000 girls ages 15 to 19, there were 49.6 births last year the lowest level since the statistic was first recorded six decades ago, the National Center for Health Statistics said.
The rate dropped consistently throughout the 1990s, falling 20 percent for the decade.
"Teen-agers frankly are more conservative sexually," said Bill Albert, spokesman for the National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy. "They realize that the risks in the 1990s were quite a bit different than the risks their parents took in the '60s and '70s."
The drop was particularly sharp among girls ages 15 to 17, whose rate fell 6 percent from its level in 1998 to 28.7 births per 1,000.
Births fell 2 percent among 18-to-19-year olds and 4 percent among girls ages 10 to 14, said the statistics center, a division of the federal government's Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The teen birth rate fell across racial lines, most dramatically among black teens, whose rate dropped 38 percent from 1991 to 1999.
"These encouraging trends cut across those younger and older teens, married and unmarried teens, all states and all racial and ethnic groups," President Clinton said in a statement.
"In the past, abstinence was a joke," said Bronwyn Mayden, executive director of Campaign for Our Children, which promotes abstinence. "It's not a joke it's OK."