What’s in a ratio? Teen birth and marriage edition

Even in our post-apocalypse world, births and marriages are still related, somehow.

Some teenage women get married, and some have babies. Are they the same women? First the relationship between the two across states, then a puzzle.

In the years 2008-2012 combined, 2.5 percent of women ages 15-19 per year had a baby, and 1 percent got married. That is, they were reported in the American Community Survey (IPUMS) to have given birth, or gotten married, in the 12 months before they were surveyed. Here’s the relationship between those two rates across states:

teenbirthmarriage1The teen birth rate  ranges from a low of 1.2 percent in New Hampshire to 4.4 percent in New Mexico. The teen marriage rate ranges from .13 percent in Vermont to 2.3 percent in Idaho.

But how much of these weddings are “shotgun weddings” — those where the marriage takes place after the pregnancy begins? And how many of these births are “gungo-ho marriages” — those where the pregnancy follows immediately after the marriage? (OK, I made that term up.) The ACS, which is wonderful for having these questions, is somewhat maddening in not nailing down the timing more precisely. “In the past 12 months” is all you get.

Here is the relationship between two ratios. The x-axis is percentage of teens who got married who also had a birth (birth/marriage). On the y-axis is the percent of teens who had a birth who also got married (marriage/birth).

teenbirthmarriageIf you can figure out how to interpret these numbers, and the difference between them within states, please post your answer in the comments.




5 thoughts on “What’s in a ratio? Teen birth and marriage edition

  1. I have made this comment a zillion times (Sufficient times to get me banned here), but unless you decompose the data to black, Hispanic and white, patterns cannot be determined. Assuming that all UT, ID,WY, HI, KS,IA teenagers were white (or Asian/Pacific islanders), shotgun marriage is an option only in red states. On the other extreme, DC can be considered all black teenagers, and the chances of marriage are remote. Making judgement for all other states is impossible unless we determine the White/Black/Latino and Latino 2nd/3rd generation breakup. Or more precisely, you can conclude anything in the entire range (“marriage is useless and should not be considered for anybody including people who are already married” to “marriage is a solution for everything from world peace and zombie apocalypse”)


    1. You are not banned, you just frequently exceed your allocation of comment reply time… In this case, you are too obsessed with race. It will be just as important to adjust for education, urban/rural composition, and abortion rates, for example, to understand what these patterns really mean.


      1. I will conclude my participation in this blog with a HW to you; I have already done the PCA analysis using R for child birth to single mothers (teen or otherwise) for the period 1991-2009.

        Education (Gap) = f(Race)
        Marriage probability = f(Education, Race)
        Childbirth = f(education, Race), g(Married/Non-Married).

        I have deduced that Race is the Principal Component of the distribution with a correlation of about 0.68. I did not divide it by urban/rural but I did it separately for the top 20 urban metros.

        I would like you to do your PCA using your software of choice and conclude that what I said is not true.

        I now conclude that sociological research is a dead-end. No one is actually looking for answers, but just what they want the answers to be.


  2. In any case, if you were going for the answer “marriage is the most useless thing invented since the wheel”, you should have not sought teen child births and teen marriages, because teen marriages (and births) have dropped like a rock to about 3%. 20-39 might have been more appropriate.


  3. There’s a great article in PDR by Ron Lesthaeghe and Lisa Neidert about the uneven tides of the Second Demographic Transition in the US.

    Lesthaeghe, R. J. and Neidert, L. (2006), The Second Demographic Transition in the United States: Exception or Textbook Example?. Population and Development Review, 32: 669–698.

    Many of scatter plots in their paper (regarding marriage, fertility, cohabitation etc.) look similar to the one’s you’ve created here. Many parts of the US have closely tracked Europe in terms of decoupling (ha) marriage and childbearing.


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