Deciphering community and race effects on adolescent premarital childbearing

Scott J. South, Eric P. Baumer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

128 Scopus citations


While prior research demonstrates that living in a sodoeconomically disadvantaged neighborhood increases young women's risk of premarital childbearing, few studies have explored the mechanisms that account for this effect. And few studies have tested Wilson's (1987) hypothesis that the pronounced racial difference in premarital childbearing can be attributed largely to racial differences in neighborhood environments. Using longitudinal data from the National Survey of Children, we find that over one-third of the positive effect of neighborhood socioeconomic disadvantage on the timing of young women's first premarital birth can be attributed to the attitudes and behaviors of peers and to young women's more tolerant attitudes toward unmarried parenthood in distressed communities. A smaller proportion of the effect of neighborhood socioeconomic status on adolescent premarital childbearing can be attributed to higher rates of residential mobility in poor neighborhoods. Despite their centrality to theories of neighborhood effects, adolescents' educational aspirations, school attachment, and parental supervision do little to mediate the impact of community disadvantage on adolescent childbearing. We also find that about two-thirds of the racial difference in the risk of premarital childbearing can be explained by racial differences in neighborhood quality.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1379-1407
Number of pages29
JournalSocial Forces
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jun 2000

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • History
  • Anthropology
  • Sociology and Political Science


Dive into the research topics of 'Deciphering community and race effects on adolescent premarital childbearing'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this