Analysis of Pregnancy and Birth Rates Among Black and White Medicaid-Enrolled Teens

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Journal of Adolescent Health


Purpose: In the United States, black teens overall have higher pregnancy and birth rates than whites, and it is commonly believed that minority race and low income account for this disparity. We examined racial differences in pregnancy and birth rates among teens from low-income households using Medicaid-enrollment as a proxy for low income. Methods: This was a retrospective study of Louisiana Medicaid claims data for female teens aged 15–17 years in 2014 (n = 66,069). Pregnancy and pregnancy outcome codes were identified (n = 2,276) and analyzed for differences by black and white race. We conducted validity analyses with different rate definitions and teens' claims status. Results: The cohort was 36% white and 54% black. More black teens than whites lacked any claims data (15.6% vs. 12.6%; p < .001). Rates calculated as events per 1,000 person-years of Medicaid coverage showed no difference in live birth rates between white and black teens (24.6 vs. 25.8; relative incidence ratio, 1.05; 95% confidence interval, .93–1.18; p = .43); however, pregnancy rates for whites were higher than those for blacks (42.7 vs. 36.1; relative incidence ratio, .85; 95% confidence interval, .77–.93; p < .001). Conclusion: In contrast to national trends, which include teens from diverse racial and socioeconomic backgrounds, Louisiana Medicaid-enrolled teens aged 15–17 years had equal birth rates regardless of black or white race, and whites had higher pregnancy rates. Decreased racial disparities in pregnancy and birth rates among these adolescents highlights socioeconomic influences in sexual health behavior and a need to examine the interplay of risk factors contributing to racial disparities seen among adolescents nationally.

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