Adolescent birth rates and rural⇓urban differences by levels of deprivation and health professional shortage areas in the United States, 2017–2018

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American Journal of Public Health


Objectives. To examine the differences in adolescent birth rates by deprivation and Health Professional Shortage Areas (HPSAs) in rural and urban counties of the United States in 2017 and 2018. Methods. We analyzed available data on birth rates for females aged 15 to 19 years in the United States using the restricted-use natality files from the National Center for Health Statistics, American Community Survey 5-year population estimates, and the Area Health Resources Files. Results. Rural counties had an additional 7.8 births per 1000 females aged 15 to 19 years (b = 7.84; 95% confidence interval [CI] = 7.13, 8.55) compared with urban counties. Counties with the highest deprivation had an additional 23.1 births per 1000 females aged 15 to 19 years (b = 23.12; 95% CI = 22.30, 23.93), compared with less deprived counties. Rural counties with whole shortage designation had an additional 8.3 births per 1000 females aged 15 to 19 years (b = 8.27; 95% CI = 6.86, 9.67) compared with their urban counterparts. Conclusions. Rural communities across deprivation and HPSA categories showed disproportionately high adolescent birth rates. Future research should examine the extent to which contraceptive access differs among deprived and HPSA-designated rural communities and the impact of policies that may create barriers for rural communities.

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