Racial/ethnic disparities in contraceptive use: variation by age and women's reproductive experiences

Am J Obstet Gynecol. 2014 Jun;210(6):526.e1-9. doi: 10.1016/j.ajog.2014.01.037. Epub 2014 Feb 1.


Objective: Disparities in unintended pregnancy in the United States are related, in part, to black and Hispanic women being overall less likely to use effective contraceptive methods. However, the fact that these same groups are more likely to use female sterilization, a highly effective method, suggests there may be variability in disparities in contraceptive use across a woman's life course. We sought to assess the relationship between race/ethnicity and contraceptive use in a nationally representative sample and to approximate a life course perspective by examining effect modification on these disparities by women's age, parity, and history of unintended pregnancy.

Study design: We conducted an analysis of the 2006 through 2010 National Survey of Family Growth to determine the association between race/ethnicity and: (1) use of any method; (2) use of a highly or moderately effective method among women using contraception; and (3) use of a highly effective method among women using contraception. We then performed analyses to assess interactions between race/ethnicity and age, parity, and history of unintended pregnancy.

Results: Our sample included 7214 females aged 15-44 years. Compared to whites, blacks were less likely to use any contraceptive method (adjusted odds ratio, 0.65); and blacks and Hispanics were less likely to use a highly or moderately effective method (adjusted odds ratio, 0.49 and 0.57, respectively). Interaction analyses revealed that racial/ethnic disparities in contraceptive use varied by women's age, with younger women having more prominent disparities.

Conclusion: Interventions designed to address disparities in unintended pregnancy should focus on improving contraceptive use among younger women.

Keywords: contraception; disparities; race/ethnicity.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • African Americans / statistics & numerical data*
  • Age Factors
  • Contraception / methods
  • Contraception / statistics & numerical data*
  • Contraception Behavior / ethnology*
  • Contraception Behavior / statistics & numerical data
  • European Continental Ancestry Group / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • Health Surveys
  • Hispanic Americans / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • Odds Ratio
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy, Unplanned / ethnology*
  • Regression Analysis
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • United States