Background: Brookings Institution has identified postponing childbirth from teenage to adulthood as a major strategy that is needed for upward social mobility of women. However, according to the Minorities’ Diminished Returns (MDRs), the associations between aspirations, investments, behaviors, and socioeconomic position (SEP) may be diminished for marginalized groups such as African Americans. Objective: To extend the existing knowledge on the MDRs, the current study had two aims: First to compare White and African American women for the association between postponing childbearing to adulthood and SEP in a national sample of American women. Second, to test correlates of postponing childbearing to adulthood and SEP at birth with long term outcomes 15 years later when the child was 15 years old. Methods: For this longitudinal study, data came from the Fragile Families and Child Well-being Study (FFCWS), a national longitudinal prospective study in the United States (US) that followed an ethnically diverse sample of women from childbirth for 15 years from 1998 to 2016. For the first aim, this study included 2679 women composed of 723 Whites and 1956 African Americans. For the second aim, among 1842 individuals who had available data 15 years later, we measured various economic, behavioral, and mental health outcomes when the child was 15 years old. For aim 1 we ran linear regression. Postponing childbearing to adulthood was the independent variable. The dependent variable, SEP (poverty) was treated as a continuous measure with higher score indicating more poverty. Confounders included marital status and delivery characteristics. For the aim 2, we ran Pearson correlation test (exploratory analysis) to test if baseline SEP correlates with future outcomes. Results: Postponing childbearing from adolescence to adulthood was associated with higher SEP in adulthood, net of all confounders including marital status and education. We found a significant interaction between postponing childbearing from adolescence to adulthood and race on SEP, suggesting that the economic reward of postponing childbearing may be weaker for African American women than for White women. Conclusions: Although postponing the age at childbirth is a recommended strategy for women who wish to maximize their chance of upward social mobility, this strategy may be associated with smaller economic returns for African American women than White women. The results can also be interpreted as MDRs in investments in terms of a postponing childbearing. In a fair society, the same investment should be similarly rewarded across diverse racial groups. In the reality, however, the US society differently rewards White and African American women who postpone childbearing. Research should explore the roles of social stratification, blocked opportunities, and concentrated poverty in explaining the unequal return of such an investment for African American and White women.
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