increase in the percentage having a birth by age 18 from 12 to 16 percent. And in the former Soviet Asia, the percentage experiencing early parenthood remains extremely low (whether measured by age 16 or 18) with little further decline possible.

When the country data are aggregated by income level rather than region (bottom panel of Table 8-3), one sees that the percentage of women who became mothers by age 16 is nearly 3 times higher in low-income than in middle-income countries, but it has declined in the lower two income groups and increased in the high-middle-income group of countries (composed mostly of countries in Latin America), although remaining at a very low level. Similar patterns are apparent for the percentage of young women who become mothers by age 18. There has thus been some narrowing of the range of first parenthood experience across regions.

Table 8-4 provides information on educational and residential differentials in the percentage who become mothers by age 18 (the patterns are similar for the percentage becoming mothers by age 16 and therefore are not shown separately).2 We chose broad educational groupings so as to assure sufficient sample sizes in each category.3 Here we note that, in every region of the world, premature motherhood occurs much more often among young women who have low levels of schooling rather than higher levels of schooling and more often among rural women than urban women. For young women with less than four years of schooling, the percentage becoming a mother before age 18 currently ranges from 21 percent in the Middle East to 48 percent in Western and Central Africa.

In addition, Panel A of Table 8-4 gives some insight into how the changes we described in Table 8-3 have occurred differentially by educational background and residential status. With respect to differential trends by educational attainment, marked declines in the percentage who make the transition to motherhood by 18 are apparent in Western and Middle Africa, Eastern and Southern Africa and South Asia for all but the least educated group. In the Middle East, the overall decline occurred among the two less educated groups. In South America, the increase in the percentage who become mothers before age 18 occurred across all educational groups, while in Central America and the Caribbean the overall decline in the percentage who are mothers by age 18 masks an increase in


A small percentage of young women ages 20-24 are still attending school (see Table 3-1) and therefore their education is not yet complete. Because motherhood typically interrupts schooling, those having a birth prior to age 18 are able to accumulate fewer years of schooling.


Nonetheless, we recognize that in some regions, certain educational groupings can become highly selective, with the degree of selectivity varying across cohorts. Thus these comparisons, while interesting, have to be interpreted with caution.

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