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Adolescent mothers and their children.

One in four black women and one in seven white women are already mothers at age 19.(197) Young mothers are more likely than other teenagers, including those who become pregnant but have abortions, to come from economically and socially disadvantaged backgrounds (Figure 48, page 58).

* Poor and low-income teenagers accounted for 83% of women 15-19 who gave birth in 1988, although they constituted only 38% of all women in that age-group. By contrast, higher income teenagers made up 62% of all women 15-19, yet represented just 17% of those who gave birth.(198)

* Nearly 60% of teenagers who become mothers are living in poverty at the time of the birth.(199)

* Nearly 60% of adolescents giving birth for the first time have their delivery fees covered by public funds, usually Medicaid (Figure 49, page 59). Even so, teenagers accounted for only about a quarter of all deliveries covered by Medicaid in 1988.(200)

* Adolescent mothers are more likely than other teenagers to come from single parent households.(201)

* Blacks and Hispanics, who are disproportionately poor or low-income, have a higher likelihood than whites of becoming adolescent mothers.(202)

Support for Adolescent Mothers

Because of their youth and disadvantaged background, teenage mothers are more likely than women who postpone childbearing to rely on their families and public assistance programs to cover the costs of raising a child and to enable them to complete their education and find employment. Even with this help, young parents are not always successful in reaching these goals.

Living with Their Parents. Pregnant teenagers and adolescent parents, most of whom are not married, often live with their parents.

* Almost three-quarters of pregnant teenagers under age 18 live with one or both of their parents.

* Even six months after giving birth, about 60% of young mothers aged 15-17 are still living at home.

* Young black mothers are more likely than Hispanics and whites to continue to live at home, usually in a single-parent household headed by their mother.(203)

While living at home can provide teenagers with crucial support during pregnancy and after the child is born, it may delay the assumption of other adult responsibilities, as well as hinder the role of the baby's father.

Public Assistance. Teenage mothers are more likely than older mothers to need the support of public assistance.

* Some 25% of adolescent mothers receive public assistance by the time they reach their early 20s, compared with 19% of women who first give birth in their early 20s. (204)

* As teenage mothers get older, many move off public assistance, (205) even in their late 20s and early 30s, however, women who became mothers when they were teenagers are more likely to be on public assistance than are those who first gave birth when they were 20-24. (206)

* An estimated 53% of funds dispersed by the Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) program, the most common form of welfare, go to families formed by a teenage birth. (207)

Child Support. As rates of divorce and out-of-wedlock childbearing have risen over the last two decades, child support has become increasingly critical to the well-being of children. (208)

* Between 1979 and 1988, the number of women under age 30 with a child whose father was not living in the house rose 23% to 3.2 million.

* Yet, only a third of women under 30 raising children apart from the children's fathers received any child support in 1987.

* Child support makes up a larger proportion of income among women under age 30 than among older women, but the absolute dollar level of child support is lowest for young women. In 1987, the average annual payment received by mothers under 30 from their children's father was only $1,946, but it amounted to about 22% of their total monetary income.

* Inmost cases, the fathers of babies born to teenagers, though older than the mothers, are still in their teens or early 20s, when their earning power, and therefore their ability to provide support for their children, is low. (209)

A Matter of Timing

As the timing of adolescence and adulthood has changed, so has the timing of childbearing. In 1965, for example, teenagers accounted for 37% of all new mothers, while women aged 25 or older accounted for only 17%. By 1990, however, only 23% of first births were to teenagers, and the proportion to women at least 25 had climbed to 45%. The shift toward delayed childbearing occurred among whites and blacks alike. (210)

As it is increasingly the norm for young women to delay childbearing, those teenagers who do become parents are increasingly differentiated from their peers. Growing proportions of advantaged women have been postponing childbearing to obtain more education and to advance their careers, thereby widening the gap between themselves and women who drop out of school or postpone their education and job advancement to have children. As the qualifications for good jobs rise, teenage mothers who fail to finish school have more difficulty finding gainful employment. Although many teenage parents eventually regain some of their initial disadvantage in school, employment and income, they seldom reach the level of their peers who delay childbearing.

Educational Attainment. Teenage mothers obtain less education than their peers who postpone childbearing.

* About 70% of women who give birth as teenagers finish high school by the time they are 35-39, compared with more than 90% of older mothers.

* Moreover, women who postpone childbearing are far more likely than those who first give birth as teenagers to go to college (211) (Figure 50, page 60).

Often, women who drop out of school and give birth as teenagers were not doing well in school even before the pregnancy occurred. In fact, many dropped out of school before they became pregnant. It appears that in terms of educational achievement, dropping out of school, not having a baby, is the key factor that sets adolescent mothers behind their peers. (212) If a pregnant teenager does drop out, it is unlikely that she will return to school before her children are in school. (213)

Adolescent mothers who stay in school are almost as likely eventually to graduate (73%) as women who do not become mothers while in high school (77%). In contrast, only about 30% of women who drop out of high school either before or after their baby's birth eventually graduate. (214)

Timing of a Second Birth. Having a second birth within a few years of the first can be a barrier to completing high school. (215) While a young mother may be able to make certain life-course transitions if she has one child--such as finishing school and obtaining an entry-level job--those tasks become considerably more difficult if she has more than one child. Teenagers often have short intervals between their first and second births, (216) particularly compared with older mothers. (217)

* Some 19% of adolescents who become mothers at ages 15-17 and 25% of those who are aged 18-19 when they first give birth have a second child within two years.

* Closely spaced births early in a woman's life contribute to deficits in her education and employment, and increase her welfare dependency.

Divorce. Teenage mothers are not only more likely than other young women to have grown up in a single-parent household, they are also more likely to end their own marriage in divorce. (218)

* The younger a couple is when they marry, the more likely they are to divorce.

* Nearly a third of first marriages among teenagers end in divorce within five years, compared with 15% among couples who delay marriage until they are 23-29.

Income. In general, young women who begin childbearing in their teens have lower future family incomes than those who postpone their first birth (Figure 51, page 61). The lower family income is due primarily to adolescent mothers' low educational attainment, their large family size and the fact that they are often unmarried. (219)

Childbearing and Prior Disadvantage

Teenage mothers are more likely than women who do not have a child before age 20 to be poor later in their lives (220) (Figure 52, page 62).

* Some 28% of women who become mothers as teenagers are poor in their 20s and early 30s.

* Only 7% of women who first give birth after adolescence are poor at those ages.

A continuing question is the degree to which teenage mothers' subsequent poverty is the result of early childbearing and the extent to which it is attributable to their prior economic and social disadvantage. Their initial disadvantage, rather than having a baby, is itself a major reason that adolescent mothers are poor later in their lives. Overall, 16% of women who were adolescent mothers would have been poor in their 20s and 80s even if they had not begun childbearing as teenagers. Nevertheless, once their initial disadvantage has been accounted for, early childbearing still has a lasting impact on the lives and future opportunities of young mothers and their children.

Children of Adolescent Mothers

Children of teenage mothers do less well on indicators of good health and social and economic well-being than do children of older parents, which again largely reflects the young mothers' economic and social disadvantage prior to childbearing, rather than their young age per se. With extra support and access to good health care, birth outcomes among teenagers need not be compromised, and some research suggests that in certain cases, adolescent childbearing may have better health outcomes than childbearing among older women. (221)

Health Status. From a purely biological perspective, the late teenage years may be the optimal time to give birth, assuming a young woman receives high-quality prenatal and delivery care. (222) In reality, however, a third of pregnant teenagers receive inadequate prenatal care--twice the proportion for the average woman giving birth. (223)

* The younger a woman is, the less likely she is to receive prenatal care in the first trimester of her pregnancy. (224)

* The lack of early prenatal care occurs across racial and ethnic groups. (225)

* In contrast to patterns among older women, pregnant teenagers from higher income families are less likely than teenagers from poor families to receive prenatal care in the first or second trimester. (226)

Largely because of their lack of adequate prenatal care, teenagers are more likely than older women to have children whose health is compromised at birth.

* Low birth weight, an important contributor to infant mortality and future health problems, is more common among the infants of teenagers than among babies born to women in their 20s.

* Among both black and white adolescents, the youngest mothers are the most likely to bear underweight babies; but at all ages, black teenagers are considerably more likely than whites to have low-birth-weight babies. (227)

* Poverty status is one of the strongest predictors of low birth weight, especially among teenage mothers. (228)

* Black teenagers are more likely than whites and Hispanics to have a premature birth. (229)

Furthermore, babies born to young mothers are more likely than those born to older mothers to have health problems during childhood and to be hospitalized. (230) (Figure 53, page 63).

Living Arrangements. As single parenthood and divorce have become more common, the living arrangements of children have changed markedly. Approximately half of all children in the United States today will spend some time living in a single-parent family. (231)

* About half of children under age six who were born to women younger than 18 live with only one parent, usually their mothers, compared with a quarter of those born to women in their early 20s. (232)

* Some 75% of black children under age six in 1987 who were born to teenagers lived with a single parent, compared with 44% of Hispanic children and 37% of white children born to teenage mothers. (233)

Cognitive Development. Children of teenage mothers consistently score lower than children of older mothers on measures of cognitive development. These results are not a direct consequence of the mother's young age at birth, but of the fact that younger mothers are more likely than others to be single parents, to have a large family and, most important, to have low educational attainment. (234) Rather than declining over time, the educational deficits of children born to adolescent mothers appear to accumulate, causing the child to fall further behind in school as he or she grows older. (235)

Teenagers who become parents are disadvantaged, economically, educationally and socially, even before they have children, which is a major reason that adolescent parents tend to he poor later in their lives and to have less education and less-stable marriages. Nevertheless, early childbearing often compounds these initial disadvantages and makes it more difficult for young parents to keep pace with their peers who do not become parents in their teenage years. Young people who become parents very early in their lives need far more intensive interventions than other teenagers if they are to overcome these problems.

(197.) AGI, 1993b.

(198.) AGI, 1993b; AGI, 1993d.

(199.) AGI, 1993b.

(200.) AGI, 1993d.

(201.) AGI, 1993b.

(202.) AGI, 1993b.

(203.) AGI, 1993b.

(204.) AGI, 1993f.

Public assistance includes Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC), general assistance, food stamps and emergency assistance.

(205.) Furstenberg, Brooks-Gunn and Morgan, 1987a, p. 145.

(206.) AGI, 1993f.

(207.) Center for Population Options, 1992, Table 1, p. 5.

(208.) Lester, 1990, Table A, p. 2; Table C, p. 5; Table D, p. 6.

(209.) AGI, 1993d.

Among 16-year-old women giving birth, 25% have a male partner who is younger than 17, and 53% have a partner younger than 20. Black mothers under age 18 are most likely to have a teenage partner; 59% do so, compared with 48% and 36%, respectively, of young white and Hispanic mothers.

(210.) NCHS, 1967, Table 1-48, pp. 1-57, 1-58; NCHS, 1993a, Table 2, pp. 18-19.

Between 1965 and 1990, the proportion of first births that were to teenagers declined about 40% (from 35% to 21%) among whites and 29% (from 59% to 42%) among blacks.

(211.) AGI, 1993b.

(212.) Upchurch and McCarthy, 1990, pp. 226-228.

(213.) Furstenberg, Brooks-Gunn and Morgan 1987a, p. 143.

(214.) Upchurch and McCarthy, 1990, Figure 2, p. 227; pp. 228, 231.

(215.) Kalmuss and Namerow, 1992, p. 12.

(216.) Polit and Kahn, 1986, pp. 168-170, and Table 4, p. 170; Kalmuss and Namerow, 1992, p. 21.

(217.) Hofferth and Hayes, 1987, Table 8.2, p. A-144.

(218.) AGI, 1993b; Martin and Bumpass, 1989, Tables 1 and 2, pp. 41 and 42.

(219.) Hofferth, 1987, pp. 134-135.

(220.) Hoffman, 1993; Hoffman, Foster and Furstenberg, 1993.

(221.) Makinson, 1985, p. 134.

(222.) Makinson, 1985.

(223.) Singh, Forrest and Torres, 1989, Table 2.2, p. 20.

(224.) AGI, 1993d.

Some 15% of 15-17-year-old pregnant women and 11% of 18-19-year-olds either receive no prenatal care (3% of each age-group) or begin care only in the third trimester.

(225.) AGI, 1993d.

Among 15-17-year-olds, 16% of blacks and 14% of whites and Hispanics receive no prenatal care before the third trimester. Among 18-19-year-olds, 15% of blacks, 14% of Hispanics and 7% of whites go without prenatal care that long.

(226.) AGI, 1993d.

Some 18% of teenager mothers whose family income prior to their pregnancies was at least $25,000 a year receive prenatal care only in the third trimester or not at all, compared with 12% of young women whose family income was below $12,000.

(227.) NCHS, 1993b, pp. 7-8; Table 13, p.28.

In 1991, 8% of infants born to white teenagers and 13% of those born to blacks were underweight.

(228.) Hayes, 1987, pp. 124-125,195-200; Hofferth and Hayes, 1987, pp. 116, 176-177.

(229.) AGI, 1993d.

Some 23% of babies born to black women aged 15-17 are premature, compared with 19% of babies born to Hispanics in that age-group and 9% of babies born to whites.

(230.) AGI, 1993g.

(231.) Bumpass, 1990, p.485.

(232.) AGI, 1993g.

(233.) AGI, 1993g.

(234.) Hofferth and Hayes, 1987, pp. 181-199.

(235.) Furstenberg, Brooks-Guan and Morgan, 1987a; Furstenberg, Brooks-Gunn and Morgan, 1987b.

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FIGURE 48

WHO GOES ON TO GIVE BIRTH?

Teenagers who give birth are much more likely to come from poor families
than are teenagers who have an abortion or teenagers in general.

 Women aged 15-19 who gave All Women aged 15-19, 1988:
 birth, 1988: 478,000 8,754,000

Poor 56% 17%
Low-income 27% 21%
Higher-income 17% 62%

 Women aged 15-19 who had an
 abortion, 1988: 393,000

Poor 39%
Low-income 22%
Higher-income 39%

Sources: Births: AGI tabulations of data from the 1988 National Maternal
and Infant Health Survey. Abortions: AGI tabulations from a 1987 AGI
survey of 9,480 women having abortions, reported in S.K. Henshaw,
"Abortion Tends in 1987 and 1988: Age and Race," Family Planning
Perspectives, 24:85-87, Table 1, p.87. All women: Estimated by AGI from
M.S. Littman and E.F. Baugher, "Poverty in the United States: 1988 and
1989," Current Population Reports, Series P-60, No. 171, Table 25, p.
191; Table 31, p. 249.

Notes: The proportion of abortions by income level in 1987 was applied
to the total number of abortions in 1988. In this figure, for women
having births and abortions, "poor" is defined by an annual family
income under $12,000; "low-income" is defined by a family income of
$12,000-$24,999; "higher income" means a family income of $25,000 or
more.

Note: Table made from pie chart
FIGURE 49

THE YOUNG AND FINANCIAL HELP

Younger mothers are more likely than others to need public assistance to
pay for their delivery coverage.

Age of mother at % of mothers using public
first birth assistance for delivery
 coverage, 1998

15-19 56%
20-24 39%
25 and older 15%

Source: AGI tabulations of data from the 1988 National Maternal and
Infant Helath Survey.

Note: Public assistance includes Medicaid, Indian Health Services and
other government assistance.

Note: Table made from bar graph
FIGURE 50

HOW MUCH EDUCATION DO THEY GET?

Over 70% of teenage mothers complete high school, but they are less
likely than older mothers to go on to college.

 Women aged 35-39 Women aged 35-39
 in 1987 who gave in 1987 who gave
 birth at age 19 birth at age
 or younger 20-24

Grades 1-11 29% 9%
Some college 15% 29%
College diploma 5% 10%
High school diploma 51% 52%

 Women aged 35-39
 in 1987 who gave
 birth at age 25
 or older

Grades 1-11 3%
Some college 24%
College diploma 47%
High school diploma 26%

Source: AGI tabulations of data from the 1987 National Survey of
Families and Households.

Note: "Some college" includes those with two-year or associate degrees.

Note: Table made from pie chart
FIGURE 51

TEENAGE MOTHERS' INCOME IN LATER LIFE

Women who give birth as teenagers eventually have a median family income
well above poverty, though lower than that of women who are older at
first birth.

Median family income of women aged 30-39, 1986

Poverty line, family of four, 1986: $11,203

Age of woman at first birth


19 and younger $17,600
20-24 $24,000
25 and older $36,400

Sources: Income: AGI tabulations of data from the 1987 National Survey
of Families and Households. Poverty line: U.S. Bureau of the Census,
"Poverty in the United States: 1987," Current Population Reports, Series
P-60, No. 163, 1989, Table A-2, p. 157.

Note: Table made from bar graph
FIGURE 52

COMPOUNDING DISADVANTAGE

Because most teenage mothers come from disadvantaged backgrounds, 28%
are poor in later life. Theoretically, had they delayed their first
birth to age 20 or older, an estimated 16% would be poor; in fact,
however, only 7% of women who delay childbearing are poor later on,
demonstrating that the initial disadvantage of teenage mothers is
compounded by the early birth.

% of women aged 21-33 in 1987
 who are poor

Women giving birth 28%
at age 19 and younger
(observed)

Effect of teenage birth

Women giving birth 16%
after age 19
(estimated)

Effect of initial disadvantage

Women giving birth 7%
after age 19
(observed)

Sources: Women giving birth at age 19 and younger (observed) and women
giving birth after age 19 (estimated): S. D. Hoffman, E. M. Foster and
F. F. Furstenberg, Jr., "Reevaluating the Costs of Teenage
Childbearing," Demography, 30: 1-13, 1993, Table 3, p. 7. Women giving
birth after age 19 (observed): Tabulations by S. D. Hoffman of data from
the Panel Study of Income Dynamics.

Notes: Data are based on pairs of sisters aged 21-33 in 1987 who grew up
in similar family and socioeconomic circumstances. Estimated women
giving birth after age 19 (observed) who are poor at ages 21-23 were
calculated by a fixed-effects model that contrasts the sister who had a
teenage birth with the sister who did not.

Note: Table made from bar graph
FIGURE 53

BABY'S HEALTH

Babies born to young mothers are more likely to have health problems
during childhood and more likely to be hospitalized than are those born
to older mothers.

% of children aged 5 and younger, 1988

 Baby has Baby has been
Age of mother at first birth health problems hospitalized

17 and younger 32% 10%
18-19 31% 8%
20-24 25% 6%
25 and older 22% 5%

Source: AGI tabulations of data from the 1988 National Health Interview
Survey.

Note: Health problems are defined by at least one caretaker's report
that the child is less healthy than others, accident-prone or seriously
ill, or has a delay in development. Hospitalizations refer to episodes
in the 12 months prior to the survey.

Note: Table made from bar graph
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Publication:Sex and America's Teenagers
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Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jan 1, 1994
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