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Comprehensive Child Marriage Research Library

Educational Differences in Early Childbearing: A Cross-National Comparative Study


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Raymo, James M; Carlson, Marcia J; VanOrman, Alicia; Lim, So-jung; Perelli-Harris, Brienna; Iwasawa, Miho


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Demographic Research

Peer Reviewed


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Students Against Child Marriage's Object Summary:

An important related field to child marriage concerns the impact of pregnancy at a young age. Raymo and his coauthors’ 2015 paper explores early childbearing and its effects on educational attainment, in particular. Conducted as a “cross-national, comparative study,” the authors’ analysis is conducted by describing the “differences in early childbearing by educational attainment across three cohorts of women in 20 countries” (p. 65). Using a combination of country specific data sets and the UN Generations and Gender Surveys, Raymo et al. “limit [their] attention to women born since 1955” (p. 75). They break the subsequent 26 years into three cohorts (1955-1963, 1964-1972, and 1973-1981) to examine the how educational attainment varied across differing generations. The findings of Raymo and his coauthors aligned with previous studies of early childbearing in the United States. They explain that “the strong negative gradient in the U.S. is consistent with prior research and is thus not surprising,” with the notable findings concerning similar patterns of “pronounced educational differences in early childbearing in Eastern European and East Asian countries” (p. 84). Beyond providing an important understanding of the impact of youth pregnancy, Raymo et al.’s work furthers the hypothesis that child marriage’s negative impacts are universal in developed countries and transcend national boundaries.

Article Abstract (If Available):

This cross-national comparative study describes relationships between women's educational attainment and young age at first birth and evaluates the extent to which these differences have changed over time for women born 1955-1981. Defining 'early' childbearing as the age by which 20% of first births have occurred to women in a given birth cohort and country, the authors describe differences in early childbearing by educational attainment across three cohorts of women in 20 countries. They find a strong negative educational gradient in early childbearing across all 20 countries and some evidence of an increase in the relative prevalence of early childbearing among the least-educated women. In 10 countries, the relative prevalence of early childbearing among women with low education is significantly higher for one or both of the more recent birth cohorts compared to the earliest cohort. However, many countries show no significant change, and in one country (Poland) there is modest evidence of a decreasing educational gap.

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