Panel Paper: Born without a Silver Spoon: Wealth and Unintended Childbearing

Thursday, November 2, 2017
Stetson G (Hyatt Regency Chicago)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Jessica Houston Su, State University of New York at Buffalo and Fenaba Addo, University of Wisconsin - Madison

Theoretical and empirical research suggests that wealth is a critical precursor to marriage, but not childbearing. Although wealth may be unrelated to fertility in general, it is unclear whether it is related to unintended childbearing specifically. Unintended births are more common among relatively disadvantaged groups, such as people of color, unmarried adults, and those with low levels of education, and it is possible that wealth disparities contribute to these patterns. We examine the linkages between wealth and unintended first births, drawing on data from the NLSY79 (N=1,708). We find that wealth is negatively related to the probability of having an unintended first birth, after controlling for a host of sociodemographic characteristics such as race, marital status, education, and income. Second only to marital status at birth, differences in wealth account for 4-10% of racial/ethnic disparities in unintended childbearing. In sum, our results suggest that wealth is a significant and heretofore overlooked correlate of unintended childbearing.