Teen pregnancy rates vary tremendously by race, in Colorado and nationally

Photo: teen mother and child at Florence Crittenton High School
A girl plays with her daughter in the lunch room at Florence Crittenton High School in Denver. Florence Crittenton is enrolls pregnant and parenting teen girls from across the metro region.

That's the takeaway from a new article in Stateline, a publication of the Pew Center on the States, which found that black, Latina, and Native American girls become mothers much more frequently than their white and Asian peers.

Gail Wyatt, a psychologist and sex researcher at UCLA, blames the disproportionately high levels of poverty in black and Latino communities for the elevated birth numbers.

“We’re talking about income; we’re talking about sub-par education … with no education about sex and your body,” Wyatt said. “This pretty much leaves these girls extremely vulnerable…. It’s simply an incompatible combination of circumstances that these girls are involved and captured in.”

Colorado's teen pregnancy numbers tell a similar story to the national data.

In 2011, 53 percent of the teen girls who gave birth in Colorado were Hispanic, more than twice their share in the overall population. Whites make up 69 percent of the state's population, but only 37 percent of its teen mothers. 7 percent of teen mothers that year were black.

However there is some good news; while teen pregnancy rates have declined overall in recent decades, the drop has been sharpest in those groups with the highest birth rates.

As CPR has been reporting, the state's teen birth rate has dropped dramatically in recent years, although why is still a mystery.