, Volume 52, Issue 3, pp 751–786 | Cite as

Black-White Differences in Attitudes Related to Pregnancy Among Young Women

  • Jennifer S. BarberEmail author
  • Jennifer Eckerman Yarger
  • Heather H. Gatny


In this article, we use newly available data from the Relationship Dynamics and Social Life (RDSL) study to compare a wide range of attitudes related to pregnancy for 961 black and white young women. We also investigate the extent to which race differences are mediated by, or net of, family background, childhood socioeconomic status (SES), adolescent experiences related to pregnancy, and current SES. Compared with white women, black women generally have less positive attitudes toward young nonmarital sex, contraception, and childbearing, and have less desire for sex in the upcoming year. This is largely because black women are more religious than white women and partly because they are more socioeconomically disadvantaged in young adulthood. However, in spite of these less positive attitudes, black women are more likely to expect sex without contraception in the next year and to expect more positive consequences if they were to become pregnant, relative to white women. This is largely because, relative to white women, black women had higher rates of sex without contraception in adolescence and partly because they are more likely to have grown up with a single parent. It is unclear whether attitudes toward contraception and pregnancy preceded or are a consequence of adolescent sex without contraception. Some race differences remain unexplained; net of all potential mediators in our models, black women have less desire for sex in the upcoming year, but they are less willing to refuse to have sex with a partner if they think it would make him angry and they expect more positive personal consequences of a pregnancy, relative to white women. In spite of these differences, black women’s desires to achieve and to prevent pregnancy are very similar to white women’s desires.


Attitudes Sex Contraceptive use Pregnancy Race 



This research was supported by two grants from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (R01 HD050329, R01 HD050329-S1, PI Barber), a grant from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (R21 DA024186, PI Axinn), and a population center grant from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development to the University of Michigan’s Population Studies Center (R24 HD041028). The authors gratefully acknowledge the Survey Research Operations (SRO) unit at the Survey Research Center of the Institute for Social Research for their help with the data collection, particularly Vivienne Outlaw, Sharon Parker, and Meg Stephenson. The authors also gratefully acknowledge the intellectual contributions of the other members of the original RDSL project team: William Axinn, Mick Couper, Steven Heeringa, and Yasamin Kusunoki, and the Advisory Committee for the project: Larry Bumpass, Elizabeth Cooksey, Kathie Harris, and Linda Waite. Finally, we thank Lisa Neidert for her expertise in computing the sex ratios with census data, and the anonymous reviewers for important feedback that greatly improved this article. We are particularly grateful to the Editor, who expertly and generously shepherded this article through an extensive review process.


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Copyright information

© Population Association of America 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jennifer S. Barber
    • 1
    Email author
  • Jennifer Eckerman Yarger
    • 2
  • Heather H. Gatny
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of SociologyUniversity of MichiganAnn ArborUSA
  2. 2.Bixby Center for Global Reproductive HealthUniversity of California–San FranciscoSan FranciscoUSA
  3. 3.Institute for Social ResearchUniversity of MichiganAnn ArborUSA

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