We reviewed the literature focused on socioeconomic influences on teen childbearing and suggested directions for future research and practice related to this important indicator of teen sexual health.Methods.
We conducted an electronic search of Medline, ERIC, PsychLit, and Sociological Abstracts databases for articles published from January 1995 to November 2011. Selected articles from peer-reviewed journals included original quantitative analyses addressing socioeconomic influences on first birth among teen women in the U.S. Articles were abstracted for key information, ranked for quality according to the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force guidelines, assessed for bias, and synthesized.Results.
We selected articles with a range of observational study designs. Risk for bias varied across studies. All 12 studies that considered socioeconomic factors as influences on teen childbearing (vs. moderators or mediators of other effects) reported at least one statistically significant association relating low socioeconomic status, underemployment, low income, low education levels, neighborhood disadvantage, neighborhood physical disorder, or neighborhood-level income inequality to teen birth. Few reports included any associations contradicting this pattern.Conclusions.
This review suggests that unfavorable socioeconomic conditions experienced at the community and family levels contribute to the high teen birth rate in the U.S. Future research into social determinants of sexual health should include multiple levels of measurement whenever possible. Root causes of teen childbearing should be evaluated in various populations and contexts. Interventions that address socioeconomic influences at multiple levels could positively affect large numbers of teens and help eliminate disparities in teen childbearing.