in the NSFG) was predicted in a logit equation that included the mother's race, education, and parity, as well as whether the birth resulted from an unintended pregnancy. The resulting coefficients were then used to estimate the proportion of wanted births that occurred outside of marriage, first with all variables set at their observed means and then with all other variables set at their means and the "unintended" variable set to zero. The first simulation closely replicates the observed proportion of births to unmarried women; the second simulation is 24 percent lower than the observed proportion of births to unmarried women. Hence, this analysis implies that, in addition to the reduction in the number of children born to unmarried women through the avoidance of unwanted births noted above, about a quarter of the wanted births that occurred to unmarried women would be delayed until after marriage. This would reduce the proportion of births estimated to be wanted births to unmarried women from 27.2 to 20.7 percent of births.

In sum, then, instead of the likely current level of 38 percent of all births that are either unwanted births (10.6 percent) or are wanted births to unmarried women (27.2 percent), the avoidance of unintended fertility could potentially reduce this proportion to the 21 percent that are intended births to unmarried mothers—a 45 percent reduction overall. Of course, the complete elimination of unintended fertility is an unrealistic goal, but the experience of other countries makes it likely that a serious effort could move the United States substantially in that direction—with proportional improvements in the well-being of future generations.



The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement