Neighborhood Homicides and Young Women's Risk of Pregnancy during the Transition to Adulthood


PSTC Seminar Room, Mencoff Hall 205

Abigail Weitzman, Assistant Professor of Sociology, The University of Texas at Austin

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Neighborhood violence and early pregnancy are two major components of social stratification. This study assesses how and why neighborhood homicides affect young women’s risk of pregnancy during the transition to adulthood. To isolate the effects of homicide exposure, we exploit spatiotemporal variation in homicides coinciding with a weekly panel survey in Flint, Michigan and compare the same women’s outcomes when a homicide did and did not occur within a quarter-mile of their homes in the prior one, two, and three weeks. Women’s risk of becoming pregnant more than tripled right after a nearby homicide occurred but then returned to normal. This substantial but temporary uptick in pregnancy risk was driven by equally substantial, temporary reductions in birth control pill and condom use. In contrast to contraceptive declines, women’s feelings about pregnancy remained unchanged (largely not wanting to become pregnant), while their desire for sex increased in homicides’ immediate aftermath. When they culminate in early pregnancy, the fleeting psychological and behavioral consequences of nearby homicides can have lifelong ramifications for young adults.