Nearly half of all pregnancies in the U.S. are unplanned, but a new study indicates that unplanned pregnancies are on the rise—especially among low-income women. While substantial progress has been made in curbing unintended pregnancies among higher-income women, such is not the case for women living in poverty.
A research study, out of the Guttmacher Institute, found that following a considerable decline in unplanned pregnancies between 1981 and 1994, the overall rate for those occurring in American women has remained essentially flat at about 5 percent. Findings revealed that the reason for this lies in the fact that although the rate of unintended pregnancy for well-to-do women continues to decrease, the pregnancy rate for women having incomes that fall below the federal poverty line are sharply increasing. Details of the study will appear in a forthcoming issue of the journal Contraception.
The unintended pregnancy rate among poor women has been on the rise since 1994, at which time 88 per 1,000 of these women aged 15 to 44 experienced an unplanned pregnancy. The largest jump occurred in 2006, when the rate among poor women rate climbed to five times that of higher-income women. U.S. government data from several sources, including the National Survey of Family Growth, show that out of 6.7 million pregnancies that year, 49 percent were unintended.
Moreover, unplanned pregnancy rates are not only higher among poor and low-income women, but also among minority women, unmarried women cohabitating, and women aged 18 to 24. In addition, a surprising revelation from the study was that poor women have higher unintended pregnancy rates regardless of their race and ethnicity, marital status, age, or level of education.
Although many unintended pregnancies are positively accepted, or even taken as joyful news, more than 43 percent of unplanned pregnancies end in abortion. On the other hand, in addition to low rates for unintended pregnancies among higher-income women, white women, college graduates, and married women, rates for abortions are also lower. This is believed to be due to these groups of women having better success at planning, timing, and spacing their pregnancies. Another reason this group is thought to have a lower unintended pregnancy rate is that they generally have better access to reproductive health services, and can afford to pay for them.