Advancing Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights
Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health
Volume 45, Number 2, June 2013

Racial and Ethnic Differences in the Transition To a Teenage Birth in the United States

By Jennifer Manlove, Nicole Steward-Streng, Kristen Peterson, Mindy Scott, Elizabeth Wildsmith

CONTEXT: Rates of teenage childbearing are high in the United States, and they differ substantially by race and ethnicity and nativity status.

METHODS: Data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1997 cohort were used to link characteristics of white, black, U.S.-born Hispanic and foreign-born Hispanic adolescents to teenage childbearing. Following a sample of 3,294 females aged 12–16 through age 19, discrete-time logistic regression analyses were used to examine which domains of teenagers’ lives were associated with the transition to a teenage birth for each racial and ethnic group, and whether these associations help explain racial and ethnic and nativity differences in this transition.

RESULTS In a baseline multivariate analysis controlling for age, compared with whites, foreign-born Hispanics had more than three times the odds of a teenage birth (odds ratio, 3.5), while blacks and native-born Hispanics had about twice the odds (2.1 and 1.9, respectively). Additional controls (for family environments; individual, peer and dating characteristics; characteristics of first sexual relationships; and subsequent sexual experience) reduced the difference between blacks and whites, and between foreign-born Hispanics and whites, and eliminated the difference between U.S.-born Hispanics and whites. Further, if racial or ethnic minority adolescents had the same distribution as did white teenagers across all characteristics, the predicted probability of a teenage birth would be reduced by 40% for blacks and 35% for U.S.-born Hispanics.

CONCLUSIONS: Differences in the context of adolescence may account for a substantial portion of racial, ethnic and nativity differences in teenage childbearing.

Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health, 2013, 45(2):89–100, doi: 10.1363/4508913




Jennifer Manlove is program area director and senior research scientist, Nicole Steward-Streng is senior research analyst, Kristen Peterson is research analyst, Mindy Scott is senior research scientist and Elizabeth Wildsmith is research scientist—all with Child Trends, Washington, DC.