Unintended Pregnancy

The purpose of this lab is to examine the causes of unintended pregnancies among low income women in the United States and to recommend policies to reduce such pregnancies. This is an important poverty-reducing intervention because children from unintended pregnancies have far worse outcomes (e.g., schooling outcomes). For many social problems, we understand the causes and what policies would help, but simply lack the political will to do anything about them. In this case, we don’t well understand the causes of the especially high rate of unintended pregnancies among low-income women, with some of the main possibilities being (a) a weak motivation to avoid pregnancy, (b) the cost or inconvenience of obtaining contraceptives, (c) an inability to align behavior with goals when the required behavior is onerous, or (d) a tendency to have partners who want a child or who are unwilling to contracept. This policy lab will identify which of these forces is principally at work and recommend policies in accord with the results. In collaboration with graduate fellow Krystale Littlejohn and several undergraduate research assistants, Paula England is currently interviewing low-income women in two community college sites in California, allowing her to uncover how these women make (or fail to make) decisions about pregnancy.