The Alan Guttmacher Institute, the think tank associated with Planned Parenthood, just released a study showing that unintended birth rates are about the same for men as well as for women. About 40 percent of births are “unintended” by men, with about two-thirds “mistimed” and one-third “unwanted.” The study, “Exploring U.S. Men’s Birth Intentions,” by Laura Lindberg and Kathryn Kost, analyzes data from The National Survey of Family Growth from 2006-2010.
Not surprisingly, the rates of unintended births vary by the fathers’ union status, age, educational level, race, and ethnicity.
Three out of four births by single men were unintended.
- One in four births by married men was unintended.
- One in 10 single men did not even know about the pregnancy until the child was born.
- Younger and less educated men have more unintended births than older and more educated men.
- Racial and ethnic disparities are common.
- Unintended births are more prevalent among black men (51 percent), compared to Hispanic men (38 percent) and white men (34 percent).
- Among union men, Hispanic and blacks are more likely than whites to have unintended pregnancies.
- Among single men, births are more intended by black than white fathers, which the authors attribute to more acceptability of non-marital childbearing among racial and ethnic groups.
- The study found an obvious fact: men who planned a birth are more happy than those with unplanned pregnancies, except that married men tended to be happy about a birth regardless of whether planned or not.
The authors of the study conclude with a message that “community and health care providers should recognize [the man’s] fertility desires and empower him to plan his family” whether married or single.
Sadly, there is no mention of the fact that social science research overwhelmingly shows that children do best — by far — in married-couple families. There are much more important considerations for children and society than a man’s “fertility desires.” We seriously shortchange both children and men when we set the bar so low and fail to challenge men to live up to their responsibilities and fulfill the special role that they have for any child that they father.
The article is available on-line by clicking “Exploring U.S. Men’s Birth Intentions,” and it will soon be published in the Maternal and Child Health Journal.