Study: Low-Income Women End Up With More Unplanned Pregnancies Than Wealthier Women

The economic inequality gap in America isn't just about who has a nicer car or house, it also impacts people's ability to control the most important aspects of their life — like when or if they have a kid.

Lack of access to affordable birth control means that low-income women are much more likely end up with an unplanned pregnancy than their richer counterparts.

A new report from the Guttmacher Institute shows that though cases of unintended pregnancies have remained relatively constant over the last few years, unplanned pregnancies are now largely concentrated among low-income women.

Between 1994 and 2006, the number of unintended pregnancies among women whose income falls below the national poverty line increased by 50 percent. During that same time, unplanned pregnancies among higher income women decreased.

Based on the latest data, women who live below the poverty line are more than five times as likely as their wealthier sisters to be surprised by an unplanned pregnancy. The study also found a correlation between higher levels of unintended pregnancies and lower levels of education.

The problem is a lack of access and information when it comes to effective methods of birth control. Of the group that is at risk for unplanned pregnancies, 35 percent of women said they used birth control inconsistently — or not at all. Those women make up 95 percent of all unplanned pregnancies in the U.S. each year.

Government sponsored programs help bridge the gap, with Medicaid paying for for about two-thirds of unintended births in 2006. That year, the bill for those births was about $11 billion. Without Medicaid? The cost would've increased to $18 billion.

As programs like Planned Parenthood, that provide services to low-income women come under attack, research shows that greater access to birth control would likely help curb the number of women who accidentally get pregnant. Of the women who say that they currently don't use a reliable form of birth control, 30 percent would use the pill if it were made available over the counter.