A Daily news digest by Jasper van Santen

Income Inequality and Teenage Pregnancy – NYTimes.com

In Nonsense on April 6, 2012 at 20:31

Income Inequality and Teenage Pregnancy 

Researchers have long tried to untangle the complicated mix of economics, culture, education and contraception (or lack thereof) that leads to teenage pregnancy.

Despite a decline in births to American teenage mothers over the past two decades, the United States stands out among developed nations in that its teenagers are much more likely to give birth than their peers in Canada, Germany, Norway, Russia (a country that is still advancing on the spectrum of development) or Switzerland.

A new study by Melissa S. Kearney, an economist at the University of Maryland, and Phillip B. Levine, an economist at Wellesley College, builds on their previous research looking at the link between income inequality and rates of teenage childbirth.

It turns out the connection is quite striking.

In general, teenage childbirth is more common among poor girls. But poor girls who live in places with a high level of inequality — meaning that the ratio of income at the median of the income distribution to the income at the 10th percentile of the income distribution is higher than in other places — are even more likely to bear children as teenagers.

The new paper looks at inequality across states and finds a very similar correlation between the rate of teenage births and income inequality. For example, a teenage girl in Mississippi is four times more likely to give birth than a teenage girl in New Hampshire. The researchers conclude that teenagers in the highest-inequality states are roughly five percentage points more likely to give birth as teenagers than teenagers in the lowest-inequality states.

 

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