In what could have a significant effect on the country’s future demographic makeup, nearly two-thirds (64%) of US low- and middle-income women of childbearing age say they cannot afford to have a baby because of the current bad economy, according to a survey by the Guttmacher Institute.
The research, which the Institute says provides the first hard evidence of the recession’s toll on women’s childbearing choices, also found that 44% of women say they want to delay getting pregnant or limit the number of children they have because of their current economic situation.
However, even though they want to prevent pregnancies, the study revealed that many women are skimping on contraceptive use because of financial hardship. Nearly one in four women have put off a gynecologic or birth control visit in the past year to save money, and the same proportion report having a harder time paying for birth control than they did in the past.
The report “A Real-Time Look at the Impact of the Recession on Women’s Family Planning and Pregnancy Decisions,” (pdf) found that more than one in four women or their partners have lost jobs or health insurance in the past year, and that 52% say they are financially worse off than they were a year ago.
Not surprisingly, more than half of the women worry more now about their ability to take care of their children. Among those who say they are financially worse off, three-quarters voice this concern, found the study.
According to Dr. Sharon Camp, Guttmacher president and CEO, the recession has put many women – including those in the middle class who are having trouble making ends meet – in a tough position. “They want to avoid unintended pregnancy more than ever, but at the same time are having difficulty affording the out-of-pocket costs of prescription contraception,” she said.
Camp added that that this approach is short-sighted and could have more significant financial consequences in the future.? “Delaying a prescription refill or skipping pills may save women money in the short term, it increases their risk of an unintended pregnancy and results in greater costs related to abortion and unplanned birth later on,” she said.
Additional study findings:
- Nearly three out of four women report worrying more about money. This concern is nearly universal (91%) among those who are financially worse off.
- Among women with children, 57% report worring more about taking care of their kids. Among the financially worse off, 78% voice this concern.
- Increased worries about loss of jobs or health insurance are common among those who are employed (40%). Such worries are expressed by 57% of those who are financially worse off.
- Of women who want to reduce or delay childbearing until after the recession, most want to get pregnant later (31%), want fewer children (28%) or now do not want any more children (7%).
- Lower-income women (those with annual household income below $25K) are more likely to report changes in their fertility preferences than are higher-income women.
- 64% of women agree with the statement, “With the economy the way it is, I can’t afford to have a baby right now.” This concern is more common among the financially-worse-off than among others.
- Overall, 29% of surveyed women agree with the statement, “With the economy the way it is, I am more careful than I used to be about using contraception every time I have sex.” Those who are financially worse off are more likely than others to agree with this statement (39% vs. 19%).
Other research on more wealthy women has shown that the affluent demographic is less affected by recessionary cycles.
About the survey: Conducted in July and August 2009, the survey covered a nationally representative sample of nearly 1,000 low- and middle-income sexually active women. The women were between ages 18-39 and had annual household incomes of less than $75K.