Neighborhood Risk and Protective Factors for Teenage Childbearing and Fathering among Latino and African American Youth: An examination of the Magnitude and Timing of Neighborhood Effects

Document Type

Conference Paper

Journal/Book Title

Annual Conference of the Society for the Study of Social Problems, Las Vegas, NV

Publication Date



Informed by ecological systems theory, social disorganization theory and social capital theory, this study investigates the neighborhood contexts associated with teenage childbearing and fathering for Latino and African American adolescents who resided in Denver public housing for a substantial period of time during their childhood. Specifically, we examine the extent to which teenage childbearing/fathering (between the ages of 15 and 19) are statistically related to various conditions in the neighborhoods in which these youth were raised. The purpose of this study is to (1) identify the threshold levels at which these neighborhood conditions become meaningful; and (2) estimate how these effects may vary according to the timing and duration of neighborhood exposure. It is hypothesized that neighborhood conditions during adolescence will most strongly predict teenage childbearing/fathering. Methods: The data utilized in this paper come from the Denver Child Study, a large-scale, mixed-methods study of current and former residents of the Denver (CO) Housing Authority (DHA). Quasi-random assignment to neighborhoods offers a natural experiment for overcoming selection bias in the measurement of neighborhood effects. Data sources include (1) survey data from parent/caregivers; (2) administrative data from the U.S.Census Bureau and the Piton Foundation; and (3) 82 in-depth interviews with caregivers and their young adult children. Data gathered from parent/caregivers were geocoded for each year of their child(ren)'s life thereby providing a rare opportunity to comprehensively examine neighborhood exposure. The study sample (N=661) is approximately half Latino and half African American, and nearly one third of the sample birthed or fathered a child between the ages 15 and 19. Results: Using logistic regression with a clustered robust error adjustment to account for clustering at the family level, our findings suggest a significant association between residence in more disadvantaged neighborhoods and teenage childbearing/fathering for both Latino and African American youth. Adolescents who resided for substantial periods of their childhood in neighborhoods which exceeded the average threshold for concentrated disadvantage were more likely to bear or father children between the ages of 15 and 19. Further, these effects varied by developmental stage, gender and ethnicity. The developmental stage of neighborhood exposure which evinced the largest effect on teenage childbearing/fathering was that of early adolescence (ages 11 through 14), suggesting that neighborhood conditions in earlier developmental stages are of less import on this particular outcome. Conclusions and Implications: Study findings are discussed in terms of their contributions to the literature regarding the magnitude of cumulative neighborhood effects and the existence of lagged and/or developmental stage specific effects on teenage childbearing/fathering for low-income Latino and African American youth. Study findings also are discussed in the context of expanding current intervention efforts for teenage childbearing/fathering from focusing only on the individual to focusing on changeable aspects of neighborhood.

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