Perceived Costs of Childbearing and Early Fertility: New Dimensions and Racial Disparities

Sarah R. Hayford, Arizona State University
Jennifer S. Barber, University of Michigan
Yasamin Kusunoki, University of Michigan
Karen B. Guzzo, Bowling Green State University

Rates of early childbearing in the U.S. are persistently high, especially among race-ethnic minorities and women from disadvantaged backgrounds. Previous research has pointed to perceived benefits of childbearing as an explanation for teen fertility. We extend this literature by (1) examining multiple dimensions of costs and benefits and (2) focusing on childbearing in early adulthood. We use longitudinal data from young women (age 18-22) in the Relationship Dynamics and Social Life study to measure costs and benefits of childbearing including perceived personal positive consequences of childbearing, general views of early fertility, social stigma, and competing goals. African American and white women differ in their assessment of the costs and benefits of childbearing, and several dimensions are associated with subsequent pregnancy in bivariate analyses. However, only the positive personal consequences of childbearing predict pregnancy in multivariate models. This measure does not mediate the associations of other sociodemographic characteristics with early childbearing.

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Presented in Session 100: Determinants of Fertility Timing