By: Lykke E. Andersen*
Fertility rates have been going down all over the World much faster than most people realize. Fertility rates in Bolivia, for example, have come down from 6.5 babies per woman in 1971 to 3.2 in 2013, which is typical of developing countries (1).
This evolution made me suspect that the problem of high teenage pregnancy in Bolivia perhaps has already solved itself, and that I don’t really have to worry about becoming a grandmother anytime soon.
However, a quick look at the latest Bolivian population census (2012) indicates that teenage pregnancy is still very common. Seven percent of all 15 year olds already have a child, and this share increases to a whopping 49 percent for the 20 year olds, many of which already have 3 children (see Table 1).
Table 1: Number of young women in Bolivia,
by age and number of children born alive
Teenage pregnancy not only happens in poor, rural areas of Bolivia, but is pervasive across all social strata. Table 2 shows that the percentage of 15-20 year old women with at least one child is highest in the poorest quintile of the population, but it is next-highest in the richest quintile.
Table 2: Number of young women in Bolivia,
by income quintile and number of children born alive
The alarming numbers in the tables above do not even capture the full extent of teenage pregnancies, as many teenage pregnancies end in an unsafe abortion, and are thus not counted in the census. It is estimated that around 80,000 abortions are performed each year in Bolivia (2), and most of those are probably performed on young women not yet ready to become mothers.
The high rates of teenage pregnancy are extremely worrying, not just because I have three teenage girls and I am not ready to become a grandmother yet, but because of the adverse dynamic effects that typically result from teenage pregnancies: less education for the mother, lower incomes for the rest of her life, less resources available to raise the kids, transmission of unfavorable conditions to subsequent generations, etc.
So, a very reluctant Happy Father’s Day from me.
For your reference:
(1) See the evolution at GapMinder World here: http://www.gapminder.org/world/ .
* Dr. Lykke E. Andersen is the Director of the Center for Economic and Environmental Modeling and Analysis (CEEMA) at the Institute of Advanced Development Studies (INESAD), La Paz, Bolivia.