A new study by researchers at the University of Maryland’s School of Public Health has identified factors contributing to disparities in unintended pregnancies with an eye toward aiding social workers and public health officials tailor programs to reduce occurrences among those groups.

In the United States, 51 percent of the estimated 6.6 million pregnancies per year are unintended, according to the Guttmacher Institute, and a disproportionate rate of those unplanned pregnancies occur among minority women. Sixty-three percent of pregnancies among African-American women and 48 percent among Hispanic women are unintended, compared to 42 percent of White women’s.

 “Preventing unintended pregnancy should be a public health priority,” said Dr. Rada K. Dagher, assistant professor of health services administration at the University of Maryland School of Public Health and senior author on the study, in a statement. “The fact that African American and Hispanic women have even higher rates of unintended pregnancy than Whites underscores the importance of tailoring multilevel interventions that address the underlying causes of the disparities.

“Our study showed that there are modifiable factors…that can be targeted by policymakers to reduce these disparities,” she added.

Maternal age, health insurance access, U.S. nativity status, marital status and education were among the factors that explained the differences in unintended pregnancies between minority groups and White, the researchers found.

Earning below 100 percent Federal Poverty Level (FPL) compared to 200 percent FPL or higher, having public insurance versus private insurance, and respondent’s mother being 25 years or younger contributed to the differences in unintended pregnancy between African-American and White women. Being single and younger than 20 years old at the time of conception also contributed to the disparity, as it did to the differences between Hispanic and White women. For Hispanic women, however, not being born in the U.S. and not having a bachelor’s degree were significant contributing factors.

Interventions to reduce unintended pregnancy, the study concluded, “should target at-risk groups of women such as younger, unmarried, lower income, lower educated, non-U.S. born women, and those with public insurance.”

The study, “Racial/Ethnic Differences in Unintended Pregnancy: Evidence From a National Sample of U.S. Women,” has been published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, which can be accessed here.