Academic journal article Journal of Comparative Family Studies

Ethnicity, Assimilation, and Un-Partnered Childbearing in Guatemala

Academic journal article Journal of Comparative Family Studies

Ethnicity, Assimilation, and Un-Partnered Childbearing in Guatemala

Article excerpt

INTRODUCTION

While un-partnered childbearing and subsequent single motherhood have been historically common in Latin America, recent studies suggest that they have become even more prevalent over the past few decades (Ali, Cleland & Shah, 2003; Fussell & Palloni, 2004). The weakening nexus between union formation and fertility seems to imply normative changes as in many developed countries (Lesthaeghe, 1995; van de Kaa, 1987); however, strong cultural emphasis on family ties and centrality of marriage in social life remains firm throughout the region (Fussell & Palloni, 2004). Despite reproductive health risks, such as coerced sexual relations, unwanted pregnancy, unsafe abortions, and sexually transmitted diseases, which may underlie un-partnered childbearirg, and the growing evidence of the negative consequences of father absence on the wellbeing of the Latin American mothers and their children (Barker, 2003; Buvinic, 1998; Desai, 1992; Engle, 1995), our knowledge on its determinants has been extremely limited.

Race and ethnicity as determinants of sexuality and fertility have received inreasing scholarly attention from family demographers and students of social stratification: the socioecomic disadvantages associated with single motherhood and intergenerational transmission of the disadvantages may constitute an important mechanism reproducing racial and ethnic inequalities as observed in the U.S. (McLanahan & Percheski, 2008). Studies consistently show that blacks (South & Bauner, 2001) and Hispanics (Wildsrith & Raley, 20C6) are more likely to experience premarital childbearing, which can only be partially explained by their socioeconomic disadvantages (Forste & Tienda, 1996). Other factors associated with their higher likelihood of out-of-wedlock childbirth include their residence in the neighborhood with concentrated poverty (Browning, Leventhal & Brocks-Gunn, 2004), smaller deterrent effects of education (Upchurch, Lillard & Paris, 2002), fewer marriageable males, stronger support network in their communities for single mothers, and less stigma attached to nonmarital childbearirg (Musick, 2002). The high likelihood of nonmarital fertility among Hispanics is attributed to the assimilation process (Oropesa & Landale, 2004). For example, Landale and Huan (1996) showed that Puerto Rican women in the U.S. are more likely to have premarital pregnancies than their nonimmigrant counterparts in Puerto Rico because of early nonmarital sexual debut. However, no difference in the likelihood of premarital pregancy between foreign- and U.S.-born Puerto Rican women in the U.S. was observed, despite the delayed union entry and longer exposure to nonmarital pregnancy among the latter, and this was attributed to their increased use of contraceptives as a result of the "full" assimilation into the U.S. culture.

While important insights have been provided by these U.S. studies, their application, in other cultural settings, particularly in a developing country, has been limited. Guided by the ethnographic literature on ethnicity and gender in Guatemala, this study examines how ethnicity determines the likelihood of un-partnered childbearing. Contrary to the high likelihood of nonmarital childbearing among minority groups in the U.S. (Morgan, 1996), I demonstrate that despite their socioeconomic disadvantages and generally higher fertility, indigenous women have a significantly lower likelihood of having their first birth prior to their union entry than Ladina women, who are members of the dominant ethnic group in Guatemala. I also demonstrate that the likelihood of un-partnered childbearing among indigenous women who reside in the predominantly Ladino communities is significantly higher than that among their counterparts in the predominantly indigenous communities, as a result of assimilation.

The likelihood of un-partnered childbearing is examined in a multilevel discrete-time event history framework. …

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