This study analyzed community effects on the sequence of events leading to a premarital birth to understand the mechanisms linking neighborhood socioeconomic disadvantage to adolescent premarital childbearing.
Recent studies of the determinants of premarital childbearing have begun to emphasize the local community as a critical social context for fertility behavior. They have shown that residence in a socioeconomically disadvantaged neighborhood can increase a young women’s risk of bearing a child out of wedlock. In exploring the sequence of events accounting for this relationship, this federally supported study analyzed data from the National Survey of Children and the 1980 U.S. census to determine that community socioeconomic status has little effect on the likelihood that unmarried adolescent women will become pregnant. However, premaritally pregnant adolescents in poor communities are less likely than those in wealthier neighborhoods to voluntarily terminate a pregnancy. Explanations for this finding could be two-fold. First, lower abortion rates and high rates of premarital fertility in disadvantaged neighborhoods result from the comparative absence of abortion providers in these communities, and secondly, the forces that encourage women in disadvantaged neighborhoods to bear children out of wedlock only come into play after these women become pregnant. Future research should attempt to test these and other explanations for the effect of community socioeconomic status on the resolution of premarital pregnancy. References