Teenagers of low socioeconomic status are more likely to get pregnant, and less likely to choose abortion, than more privileged teenagers. Few studies have used longitudinal data to examine whether these differences persist as overall teenage pregnancy rates decline.
Nationally representative register data from 259,242 Finnish women in three birth cohorts (1955–1959, 1965–1969 and 1975–1979) were analyzed using Cox regression to assess socioeconomic differences in teenagers’ risks of pregnancy and abortion. Binary logistic regression was used to assess socioeconomic differences in the odds of pregnant teenagers’ choosing abortion.
Socioeconomic differences in abortion risk did not change substantially across cohorts; however, differences in the risk of childbirth rose between the first two cohorts and then returned to their earlier level. In all cohorts, teenagers from upper-level employee backgrounds, the most privileged group, had the lowest risks of abortion and childbirth (44–53% and 53–69% lower, respectively, than those for manual workers’ children). Teenagers whose parents were lower-level employees or farmers also had reduced risks of both outcomes in all cohorts; results for other socioeconomic groups were less consistent. Pregnant teenagers from upper-level employee backgrounds had 2–3 times the odds of abortion of manual workers’ children; the largest difference was found in the 1950s cohort.
Despite the declining overall teenage pregnancy rate, poorer background continues to be associated with a higher risk of conceiving and of giving birth.
Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health, 2014, 46(2):109–116, doi: 10.1363/46e1314
Heini Väisänen is a doctoral candidate, and Michael Murphy is professor, both in the Department of Social Policy, London School of Economics and Political Science, London.