There are lots of examples of the growing distance between the nation’s haves and have-nots, and the gap between unintended births for the most-affluent women and the least-affluent women is yet another area with a widening economic divide.
About half of all pregnancies are unplanned, which can make the possibility of an unintended pregnancy seem like not that big of a deal. But the financial impact of unintended pregnancies, and subsequent births, can be significant—particularly for low-income women. Unplanned pregnancies were five times as likely for those at or below the federal poverty level in 2008, according to data from the Guttmacher Institute, a nonprofit that provides research and policy analysis of sexual and reproductive topics. There are economic consequences, for both tax payers and individuals: A 2011 study from the Brookings Institution estimated that healthcare costs for unintended pregnancies and resulting births total about $12 billion in tax-payer dollars each year through government-subsidized medical-care programs like Medicaid and Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP). Studies have found that these pregnancies can negatively impact educational attainment for mothers. A 2010 paper from Boston University suggests that unplanned pregnancies and births can be detrimental to a woman’s economic status and income, and can reduce the probability of labor-force participation by as much as 25 percent.
Unintended Pregnancies, by Income Levels 1981-2008
A recent study from the Brookings Institution takes a look at women in various economic classes in order to assess what factors play a significant role in unintended births, and their prevention. The paper used data from the National Survey of Family Growth to look at 3,885 single women between the ages of 15 and 44 who said they were not trying to get pregnant. They were separated into five economic groups that measured their proximity to the federal poverty line, which is about $11,770 for a single individual in 2015. Researchers then tried to look at instances of contraceptive use, motivation to have—or prevent having—a child, and abortions in order to parse potential reasons for the differences in unintended births between the economic groups.