Blacks are more likely than whites to have unwanted births. A common explanation for that difference is that blacks use less effective contraceptive methods, use contraception less effectively, and use contraception less often than whites. Analysis of data from 17 cities in our family planning evaluation project suggested that, among women living in low-income neighborhoods, the black-white difference in unwanted births was not due to (1) blacks reaching desired completed parity at younger ages than whites, (2) differences in age or parity in our black and white samples, (3) black-white differences in current use of physician-administered contraception, or (4) blacks being more likely than whites to adopt physician-administered contraception after having an unwanted birth. Black-white differences which might have contributed to relatively more unwanted births among blacks were (1) blacks desired fewer children, (2) blacks were less likely than whites to use nonphysician-administered methods and more likely than whites to use no contraception, and (3) blacks had higher failure rates than whites subsequent to the adoption of physician-administered methods and when not using those methods. Comparisons are made with the 1965 and 1970 National Fertility Studies, and program implications of the findings discussed.

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