Adolescent birth rates and the urban social environment in 363 Latin American cities

Type: Journal Article
Date: October 2022


Ariela Braverman-Bronstein, Dèsirée Vidaña-Pérez, Ana F Ortigoza, Laura Baldovino-Chiquillo, Francisco Diez-Canseco, Julie Maslowsky, Brisa N. Sánchez, Tonatiuh Barrientos-Gutiérrez, Ana V. Diez Roux. Adolescent birth rates and the urban social environment in 363 Latin American cities. BMJ Global Health (2022). Volume 7, Issue 10.


Introduction Latin America has the second-highest adolescent birth rate (ABR) worldwide. Variation between urban and rural areas and evidence linking country development to ABR points towards upstream factors in the causal pathway. We investigated variation in ABR within and between cities, and whether different features of urban social environments are associated with ABR.

Methods We included 363 cities in 9 Latin American countries. We collected data on social environment at country, city and subcity levels and birth rates among adolescents (ages 15–19). We investigated variation in ABR within and between countries and cities along with associations between social environment and ABR by fitting three-level negative binomial models (subcities nested within cities nested within countries).

Results The median subcity ABR was 58.5 per 1000 women 15–19 (IQR 43.0–75.3). We found significant variability in subcity ABR between countries and cities (37% of variance between countries and 47% between cities within countries). Higher homicide rates and greater population growth in cities were associated with higher ABR (rate ratio (RR) 1.09; 95% CI 1.06 to 1.12 and RR 1.02; 95% CI 1.00 to 1.04, per SD, respectively), while better living conditions and educational attainment in subcities were associated with lower ABR after accounting for other social environment characteristics (RR 0.95; 95% CI 0.92 to 0.98 and 0.78; 95% CI 0.76 to 0.79, per SD, respectively).

Conclusions The large heterogeneity of ABR found within countries and cities highlights the key role urban areas have in developing local policies. Holistic interventions targeting education inequalities and living conditions are likely important to reducing ABR in cities.

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