Journal of Family and Economic Issues

, Volume 39, Issue 4, pp 600–615 | Cite as

Born Without a Silver Spoon: Race, Wealth, and Unintended Childbearing

  • Jessica Houston SuEmail author
  • Fenaba R. Addo
Original Paper


The United States has a surprisingly high rate of unintended fertility, particularly among women of color. Although studies have examined socioeconomic correlates of unintended fertility, the role of economic resources remains unclear. Wealth may provide an important context for whether a birth was intended or unintended. Moreover, staggering racial wealth disparities may contribute to racial/ethnic patterns of unintended childbearing. This study examines the linkages between wealth and unintended first births, drawing on data from the NLSY79 (N = 1508). Results suggest that net wealth is negatively related to the probability of having an unintended first birth, controlling for a host of sociodemographic characteristics. We also use decomposition analysis to quantify wealth’s contribution to racial/ethnic disparities in unintended childbearing. Second only to marital status, differences in net wealth account for 9–17% of racial/ethnic disparities in unintended childbearing. Our results suggest that wealth is a significant and heretofore overlooked correlate of unintended childbearing.


Wealth Fertility Family planning Race/ethnicity 


Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

This study uses publically available secondary data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1979. The authors did not interview the respondents. This article therefore does not contain any studies with human participants performed by any of the authors.


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of SociologyUniversity at Buffalo – SUNYBuffaloUSA
  2. 2.Department of Consumer ScienceUniversity of Wisconsin-MadisonMadisonUSA

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