Before or after fertility? Antecedents of the low schooling level achieved by a cohort of young mothers in Campinas, Brazil

Humberto Corrêa, Universidade Estadual de Campinas (UNICAMP)

Introduction: Research on fertility in the second decade of life has shown that young mothers complete fewer years of schooling than their nulliparous age peers and women who postpone their first childbirth until after they are 20 years old. In Brazil, few studies have identified the extent to which these gaps were already present before fertility, and for this reason, it is difficult to assess the real effect of pregnancy and fertility on the schooling of young mothers. Method: This study comprises an analysis of the school career performance of a representative sample (n = 225) of a cohort of young women living in Campinas, a municipality of one million inhabitants in the state of São Paulo, Brazil. All individuals in the sample had their first live-born child at the ages of 17 and 19 in 2005 and were interviewed between 2006 and 2007. Their school achievements were assessed in a cross-sectional observation after fertility. Nonetheless, by the use of retrospective questions, the schooling histories were reconstituted longitudinally from age seven to 16 when all were still nulliparous. Results: The high incidence of failures and interruptions prior to the subjects’ pregnancy and first live birth indicates that many of them had run into obstacles to their school career before fertility: 28.0% failed AND dropped out while 78.2% failed OR dropped out of at least one school grade before pregnancy and their first live birth. Furthermore, overlaps of grade repetitions and school dropouts were observed in large fractions of the sample subjects. Thus, cross-sectional studies that exclusively analyze the schooling deficits of young mothers after their first pregnancy or childbirth and directly compare them to the school achievements of childless women or later childbeares may not properly identify the origins of age-school grade gaps and the few years of schooling completed.

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Presented in Poster Session 2