Sources of Support for Young Latina Mothers

08/16/1995


SOURCES OF SUPPORT FOR YOUNG LATINA MOTHERS


Joan R. Kahn and Rosalind E. Berkowitz

The Urban Institute

August 16, 1995

Prepared for the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation, Department of Health and Human Services, Contract No. HHS-100-92-0005, Delivery Order No. 14. The authors gratefully acknowledge the helpful comments of Greg Acs, Rebecca Clark, Sandra Danziger, Maria Enchautegui, Kelleen Kaye, Elisa Koff, Gladys Martinez, Freya Sonenstein and Matt Stagner.

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

Traditionally, Latinas have had higher fertility than nonLatinas in the U.S. In 1992, the Latino total fertility rate was 3.04 births per woman, compared with only 1.94 for all non-Latina women. Since 1980, Latina total fertility has risen by about 20 percent, while non-Latina fertility has risen by less than 7 percent. The increase in teenage fertility is even more dramatic. Latino teen birth rates increased by 30 percent between 1980 and 1992 while nonLatino rates increased by only 6 percent.

This study explores the support strategies used by young Latina mothers in the United States. While some prior work has examined the circumstances facing young White and Black mothers, much less is known about the strategies used by young Latina mothers. Latinas are of particular interest because they have high rates of poverty, and their numbers are growing rapidly, both due to continued high rates of immigration from Latin America as well as recent increases in the fertility of young Latina women.

The goals of this study are to identify Latino subgroups in greatest need of additional support and to identify strategies that appear to work the best. We focus on two types of strategies of support: first, we look at the young mother's living arrangements to determine whether she is living with others who can potentially provide support to her and her children (spouse, parents, other adults). We then consider how young mothers support themselves and their children, both through employment and public assistance. Our analysis, which is based on data from the 1990 U.S. Census (PUMS 1% sample), focuses on both never- and ever-married young mothers ages 15-19 and 20-24. Among the 20-24 year olds, we also compare outcomes for those who became mothers as teens with those who waited until at least age 20.

Our results highlight the very impoverished situations facing many young mothers and their children. The evidence is clear that young single mothers who are raising their children on their own face the greatest hardship, while those who live with a spouse or with parents or other adults are better off. Nonetheless, neither marriage nor living with adult relatives can protect large numbers of minority families from poverty.

On average, Latina mothers displayed patterns that fell intermediate to the patterns of Anglo and Black mothers, though there was no single pattern that characterized all Latino subgroups. Puerto Rican mothers stand out as being considerably worse off than other groups: they are less likely to be married, less likely to be living with parents or other adults, more likely to be living in poverty and more likely to be receiving welfare. Cuban mothers stand out in the opposite way, with the highest household incomes of any group and the lowest rates of receiving welfare. Mexican and Central and South American mothers look more like Anglos than any other group in terms of their marriage patterns and living arrangements, although their poverty rates are much higher.

The results suggest a distinctive immigrant strategy, especially for Mexicans, whereby foreign born mothers are considerably more likely than their U.S. born counterparts to rely on family or kin resources. The strategy of living with parents or relatives appears to take the place of welfare for many immigrants, but it does not make them any less impoverished than non-immigrants.

The most vulnerable young mothers appear to be teenagers raising their children on their own. Our results suggest that if these teen mothers were living with their parents or other adults, they would be more likely to remain in school, and less likely to be living in poverty. Although married teen mothers are better off than single mothers raising their children alone, they are clearly worse off than single mothers who live with their parents or other adults. Moreover, married teen mothers have lower rates of school enrollment than their unmarried counterparts and this will likely result in lower educational attainment overall.

Mothers who delayed their first births until after the teen years had better outcomes than did mothers who became parents as teens. This is especially clear in their educational attainment: delayers are substantially more likely to have completed high school and to have attended college. However, if they had never married, delayers still faced high risks of poverty. At least 40 percent of these women (in every ethnic group, including two-thirds of Puerto Ricans) were living in poverty. Thus, simply delaying births until the twenties will not protect many young women from hardship.

LIST OF APPENDIX TABLES

A.1 Overview of Characteristics of Teen Mothers (Ages 15-19), by Ethnicity

A.2 Family Composition of Teen Mothers (Ages 15-19), by Ethnicity

A.3 Family Composition of Teen Mothers (Ages 15-19), by Ethnicity and Age

A.4 Family Composition of Teen Mothers (Ages 15-19), by Ethnicity and Nativity

A.5 Sources of Income for Teen Mothers (Ages 15-19), by Ethnicity

A.6 Sources of Income for Teen Mothers (Ages 15-19), by Ethnicity and Nativity

A.7 Percent of Teen Mothers (Ages 15-19) in Poverty and Percent Receiving Welfare, by Ethnicity and Family Composition

A.8 Median Household Income for Teen Mothers (Ages 15-19), by Ethnicity and Family Composition

A.9 Percent of Teen Mothers (Ages 15-19) in Poverty, by Ethnicity, Age, and Family Composition

A.10 Percent of Teen Mothers (Ages 15-19) with Transfer Income, by Ethnicity, Age, and Family Composition

A.11 Percent of Teen Mothers (Ages 15-19) with Earned Income, by Ethnicity, Age, and Family Composition

A.12 Percent of Teen Mothers (Ages 15-19) Attending School, by Ethnicity, Age, and Family Composition

A.13 Percent of Older Teen Mothers (Ages 18-19) Who Have Completed High School, by Ethnicity and Family Composition

B.1 Overview of Characteristics of Young Mothers (Ages 20-24), by Ethnicity

B.2 Family Composition of Young Mothers (Ages 20-24), by Ethnicity

B.3 Family Composition of Young Mothers (Ages 20-24), by Ethnicity and Nativity

B.4 Sources of Income for Young Mothers (Ages 20-24), by Ethnicity

B.5 Sources of Income for Young Mothers (Ages 20-24), by Ethnicity and Nativity

B.6 Percent of Young Mothers (Ages 20-24) in Poverty and Percent Receiving Welfare, by Ethnicity and Family Composition

B.7 Median Household Income for Young Mothers (Ages 20-24), by Ethnicity and Family Composition

B.8 Achievement Indicators for Young Mothers (Ages 20-24), by Ethnicity, Marital Status and Age at First Birth

B.9 Percent of Young Mothers (Ages 20-24) Who Have Completed High School, by Ethnicity and Family Composition

B.10 Percent of Young Mothers (Ages 20-24) Who Have Ever Attended College, by Ethnicity and Family Composition