Friday, June 20, 2008

Fertility Age and Income

Time magazine features an article on Gloucester High School in Gloucester, MA where there has been a sharp increase in teen pregnancies from 4 to 16 out of 1,200 students. The story has a strange twist in that it appears the growth in pregnancy is due to a pact formed by 8 of the girls to get pregnant. One of the reasons pointed to in the article for this pact was that Gloucester is a blue color fishing town with poor economic prospects.

The age at which mothers have children is strongly related to income prospects. A more global perspective from this graph at Gapminder, shows that as GDP per capita (income) rises the number of teen births decreases. In Africa, there is about 1 birth for every 10 women under 19 per year, while it is a little less than ½ that in the United States (.4 births per 10 women). So Gloucester was still below the national average this year.

This negative relationship between income and having children young is generally explained by if women have more prospects economically, then giving up some of those prospects through pregnancy seems less attractive. Interestingly though the US is a bit above where you would expect in terms of the number of teen pregnancies given our GDP per capita. My guess is this is due to a combination of culture, inequality, and availability of contraceptives.

h/t to broadsheet at

Or if you prefer a map of fertility see the below.
Adolescent Fertility Rate (Births per 1,000 Women Aged 15-19)

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1 comment:

rjgitter said...

Just a thought. When you look at the gapminder chart and drag it from 1997 to 2006, the slope seems to decrease, i.e., income seems to have less of an impact on fertility in 2006 than in 1997. I am more of a numbers person than a visual one, so is there any evidence that this is the case?

Bob Gitter/Dad