Study finds reproductive disparities by race and education

Black college-educated women in the United States give birth to fewer children than their white and Hispanic counterparts, according to a new study co-authored by the Yale sociologist Emma Zing.

The study, published in the journal Population Studies, examines the interaction of race, ethnicity, and education in shaping the fertility levels of American women born between 1960 and 1980. It also showed that Black and Hispanic women with no college degree or less than a high-school education have more births than white women with a similar education. Among college-educated women, Hispanic women had the highest fertility compared to black and white college-educated women.

Conventional wisdom holds that racial or ethnic disparities in fertility will fade once women from minority groups achieve similar levels of education and socio-economic status as white women, but we find that discrepancies occur at all levels of education,” said Zang, an assistant professor of sociology at Yale College. of Arts and Sciences and lead author of the study. “In general, highly educated women have fewer children than less educated women, but that doesn’t explain the disparities we found among women with college degrees.

Our results highlight the need to study differences in childbearing between socioeconomically advantaged women as well as those with fewer financial resources.

Unlike previous research on race and fertility in the United States, which typically focused exclusively on black and white women, this new study included Hispanic women, who represent an ethnic group that makes up at least 19% of the U.S. population. , according to the Census Bureau.

For the research, Zang and co-authors Chloe Sariego, Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Sociology, and Anirudh Krishnan of the Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab analyzed four waves of National Survey of Family Growth (NSFG) longitudinal survey data from 2006 to 2017 involving a nationally representative sample of 11,117 women. They calculated the average number of children women of each racial/ethnic group and education level would have during their childbearing years. In addition, they analyzed the proportion of women in each group who give birth to one, two or three children.

Overall, they found that educated women of all racial and ethnic groups had fewer children than those without a college degree. The difference in fertility between black and white college-educated women is mainly due to the lower proportion of black mothers giving birth to a second child, according to the study. A high proportion of both groups have one child, but the proportion of black college-educated mothers who had a second child was more than 10 percentage points lower than that of white mothers, the study found. About 80% of white women with a college degree have had a second child, while less than 70% of black women with a similar education have done so.

One possible explanation for the low fertility of black college-educated women is that they put off the birth of their first child for so long that they did not have time to have more children during their teenage years. procreation. However, the study found little evidence that when women decide to have children causes disparities between racial/ethnic groups across education levels.

Previous studies have offered possible reasons why black and Hispanic women without college degrees have higher fertility than their white counterparts, Zang said. For example, religious beliefs and lack of access to health insurance could influence how less educated black and Hispanic women use contraception. Due to structural racism, black and Hispanic women without a college degree are also more likely to experience relationship and economic instability than their white counterparts, she explained.

The new study raises several questions about racial disparities in fertility among college-educated women that require further investigation, Zang said.

Are fertility differences the product of highly educated black and Hispanic women being more aware of the higher risk of pregnancy-related complications among their racial groups, such as miscarriage, infant mortality, and maternal mortality? ” she says. “Are they the result of college-educated Black and Hispanic women more often needing to navigate white-dominated spaces, including workplaces, compared to less-educated Black and Hispanic women, which makes them prevents confirming the stereotype that they are very fertile? Do they exist because black and Hispanic women with college degrees who wanted a second child were prevented from having one due to health problems caused by long-term chronic stress related to racism? »

The study results indicate that, compared to white children, a greater proportion of black and, to a lesser extent, Hispanic children are born with less educated mothers and a smaller proportion are born with mothers with college education, Zang said.

Highly educated mothers generally have more resources to support their children’s development and their chances of success in life,” she said. “That is, black and Hispanic children, compared to white children, are disproportionately born into families with fewer resources, which could exacerbate income and health inequalities in the next generation.”