Only University Is Enough? Sixty Years of Adolescent Fertility and Schooling Expansion in Latin America and the Caribbean

Ann Garbett
Sarah Neal, University of Southampton
Nikos Tzavidis, University of Southampton
Angela Luna Hernandez, University of Southampton

Adolescent fertility in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) is a demographic puzzle. Despite the region’s rapid fertility transition and dramatic educational expansion, adolescent fertility rates remain high. Previous research has found that only women with university experience have not seen an increase in the incidence of teenage childbearing. However, the research’s education divisions of no school, primary, secondary and tertiary, mask important differences between lower- and upper-secondary schooling as well as between graduates and dropouts at each level. Additionally, previous research does not consider parity-specific patterns. This study uses 42 nationally-representative demographic surveys in six LAC countries, which span the region’s experience of adolescent fertility and schooling profiles, to estimate cohort-based Poisson and logistic regression measures of country- and parity-specific teenage childbearing from women born from 1936-1998. The models estimate (1) the proportions of women with one to four adolescent births and (2) the average number of adolescent births per woman, within each major schooling milestone (no school, primary, lower secondary, upper secondary, and tertiary), as well as for the populations as a whole. The study also distinguishes between women with complete and incomplete schooling careers for each level below tertiary. The findings indicate that in some countries even university is not enough––tertiary attendees have seen long-term increases in adolescent first births. In other contexts, both upper secondary graduates and tertiary attendees have not seen the sharp increases in adolescent first births observed at other schooling levels. Second and higher-order adolescent births have generally, but not universally, fallen.

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 Presented in Session P1. Poster Session Fertility, Family and the Life Course