Poor women may also perceive lower potential for education and careers, which would reduce their opportunity costs for having early sex and unprotected sex. For example, researchers have posited that poor women have more serious relationships at younger ages, which contributes to their higher risk of early pregnancy Edin and Kefalas , and that black women discontinue their contraceptive methods more frequently than other women Hammerslough ; Trussell and Vaughan Sexual behavior encompasses the number of distinct sexual partners and frequency of sexual intercourse. Poverty-related structural disadvantages in black neighborhoods—such as lower-quality schools, fewer churches, fewer community centers or associations, and generally less-cohesive local networks—may contribute to so-called ghetto-related behaviors, including teen and nonmarital pregnancy, among residents Anderson ; Wilson Hypothesis 4 Contraceptive Use and Method Instability: Black young people [are more likely to have had sexual intercourse, to have initiated sexual activity at earlier ages, and to have had multiple sexual partners in their lifetime than white young people Cavazos-Rehg et al. At its inception, the U. We restrict our analyses to the first 12 months of the study, when response rates were highest. Data and Methods Data The RDSL study began with a representative random, population-based sample of 1, young women, ages 18—19, residing in a single Michigan county.
In this study, we investigate the role of two important proximate determinants of pregnancy—sex and contraceptive use—in producing these black-white differences. Empirically testing these and other similar hypotheses requires dynamic data on sex and contraception use over time. In the United States, black young people grow up in more religious families than their white counterparts, with the vast majority attending historically black churches e. Contraceptive behavior includes use of any method, consistent use, and the effectiveness of the specific method used Kirby Poor women may also perceive lower potential for education and careers, which would reduce their opportunity costs for having early sex and unprotected sex. Young women with these experiences may seek out romantic relationships as an escape from a harsh life Cavanagh et al. Edin and Kefalas described poor young women who perceive potential stability in a path of early sex, lack of contraception, and early parenthood. Measures Individual Characteristics Table 1 presents the distributions of race and other sociodemographic characteristics included in the models, among the full sample and separately by race. Because we investigate multiple outcomes, the analytic sample varies by outcome. Although teen pregnancy rates have declined dramatically among all racial and ethnic groups in the United States since their peak in the early s Kost and Henshaw , black teens have a pregnancy rate that is nearly three times higher than that of white teens Martinez et al. One major contribution of the RDSL data is that we measure sexual and contraceptive behaviors in much more detail than did past surveys, allowing us to better understand which particular facet of these behaviors may explain race differences in unintended pregnancy: The question of whether poor women should bear children is at the heart of some ongoing welfare debates e. Family and Early-Life Experiences Compared with their more-advantaged counterparts, young women from disadvantaged backgrounds e. Neighborhood economic conditions of blacks explain a substantial amount of race-based variance in nonmarital pregnancy South and Baumer and attitudes related to early sex Browning and Burrington Also, some evidence has suggested that even though black women have sex earlier than their peers, they have more negative attitudes about sex Barber et al. The results presented in this article were comparable with those that included the remaining non-Hispanic groups either with whites or as a separate category. An in-depth study of class and sexual behavior among college women found that young women from more-advantaged social backgrounds, who also had higher academic aspirations, delayed serious relationships and pregnancy in explicit recognition that their opportunity costs were high Armstrong and Hamilton More discontinuation of contraceptive use, a greater number of different contraceptive methods used, and more method switches. Poverty-related structural disadvantages in black neighborhoods—such as lower-quality schools, fewer churches, fewer community centers or associations, and generally less-cohesive local networks—may contribute to so-called ghetto-related behaviors, including teen and nonmarital pregnancy, among residents Anderson ; Wilson Data and Methods Data The RDSL study began with a representative random, population-based sample of 1, young women, ages 18—19, residing in a single Michigan county. These strong preferences for delaying childbearing and marriage translate to contraceptive vigilance, given that the vast majority of young women have had sex by their early 20s Finer and Philbin Religious doctrine generally opposes premarital sex, and religious young people are more likely than those who are not religious to delay first sex, avoid premarital sex, and have fewer sexual partners Manlove et al. The present study contributes to our understanding of these proximate determinants of pregnancy among young women in two important ways. And Burton and Tucker described this unreliability and insecurity in the lives of poor African American women—intermittent, low-wage employment, and few alternatives e. Accordingly, we draw on the life course perspective to conceptualize the links among race, other sociodemographic characteristics, and sexual and contraceptive behaviors. These behaviors then set the stage for future behavior in adulthood.
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