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On Teenage Childbearing and Neonatal Mortality in the United States

Arline T. Geronimus
Population and Development Review
Vol. 13, No. 2 (Jun., 1987), pp. 245-279
Published by: Population Council
DOI: 10.2307/1973193
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1973193
Page Count: 35
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On Teenage Childbearing and Neonatal Mortality in the United States
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Abstract

The association between teenage childbearing and neonatal mortality is often interpreted as evidence of true age effects. A corresponding expectation is that neonatal mortality will be reduced by prevention of teenage pregnancy. These views are reconsidered in light of new empirical findings and their synthesis with results of previous biomedical and social scientific investigations. An alternative hypothesis is proposed: that the association between teenage childbearing and neonatal mortality reflects unobserved heterogeneity in the population of first-time mothers. Specifically, in the United States, unfavorable life conditions among populations with high early fertility rates have physiological consequences that are proximate determinants of neonatal mortality. This interpretation suggests that policies promoting fertility postponement will not reduce levels of neonatal mortality if, within target populations, the prevalence and effects of important proximate determinants of neonatal mortality are constant or increase with age.

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