Review of Economics of the Household

, Volume 16, Issue 3, pp 629–659 | Cite as

The effect on teenage childbearing on social capital development: new evidence on civic engagement

  • Joseph J. SabiaEmail author
  • Joseph P. Price
  • H. Elizabeth Peters
  • Reginald Covington


Using data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1997 (NLSY97), we examine the relationship between teenage childbearing and four measures of adult civic engagement: charitable giving, volunteerism, political awareness, and voting. After accounting for selection on observables via propensity score matching and selection on unobservables via family fixed effects and instrumental variables approaches, we find that teen motherhood is negatively related to adult civic engagement. Descriptive evidence suggests that teen birth-induced reductions in educational attainment and the time-intensive nature of childcare are important mechanisms. Finally, we find that while the adverse civic engagement effects of teen parenthood may extend to teen fathers, the effects are much smaller in magnitude.


Teenage childbearing Social capital Civic engagement Charitable giving 


I12 J13 



The authors thank participants at the 2013 Southern Economic Association and Population Association of America meetings for useful comments and suggestions. We thank Rebecca Sen Choudhury for excellent research assistance. The work was supported, in part, by a grant from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (P01HD045610), the Cornell Institute for the Social Sciences and the Cornell Population Program. Dr. Sabia also acknowledges support from a grant received from the Charles Koch Foundation.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no competing interests.


  1. Andolina, M. W., Jenkins, K., Zukin, C., & Keeter, S. (2003). Habits from home, lessons from school: Influences on youth civic engagement. Political Science and Politics, 36(02), 275–280.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Arpino, B., & Bordone, V. (2017). Regular provision of grandchild care and participation in social activities. Review of Economics of the Household, 15(1), 135–174.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Ashcraft, A., & Lang, K. (2006). The consequences of teenage childbearing. NBER Working Paper No. 12485.Google Scholar
  4. Auten, G., Sieg, H., & Clotfelter, C. (2002). Charitable giving, income, and taxes: An analysis of panel data. The American Economic Review, 92(1), 371–382.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Bennett, N. G., Bloom, D. E., & Miller, C. K. (1995). The influence of nonmarital childbearing on the formation of first marriages. Demography, 32(1), 47–62.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Brooks, A. C. (2003). Religious faith and charitable giving. Policy Review, 121, 39–50.Google Scholar
  7. Cherlin, A., & Griffith, J. (1998). Methodological issues in improving data on fathers: Report of the working group on the methodology of studying fathers. Nurturing fatherhood: Improving data and research on male fertility. Washington, D.C.: Federal Interagency Forum on Child and Family Statistics 75–211.Google Scholar
  8. Cohen, L., & Glazer, A. (2015). Bargaining within the family can generate a political gender gap. Review of Economics of the Household, 1–15, Available at:
  9. Corporation for National and Community Service (2015). Volunteering and Civic Life in America 2015 National, State, and City Information. Available at:
  10. Covington, R., Peters, H. E., Price, J. P., & Sabia, J. J. (2013). Teen Fatherhood and Educational Attainment: Evidence from Three Cohorts of Youth. Working Paper, Urban Institute.Google Scholar
  11. Do, C., & Paley, I. (2012). Altruism from the house: The impact of home equity on charitable giving. Review of Economics of the Household, 10(3), 375–393.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Duke, N. N., Skay, C. L., Pettingell, S. L., & Borowsky, I. W. (2009). From adolescent connections to social capital: Predictors of civic engagement in young adulthood. Journal of Adolescent Health, 44(2), 161–168.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Edin, K., Maria, K., & Joanna, R. (2004). A peek inside the black box: What marriage means for poor unmarried parents. Journal of Marriage and Family, 66(4), 1007–1014.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Eggebeen, D., & Knoester, C. (2001). Does fatherhood matter for men? Journal of Marriage and Family, 63(2), 381–393.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Flanagan, C., & Levine, P. (2010). Civic engagement and the transition to adulthood. The Future of Children, 20(1), 159–179.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Fletcher, J. (2011). The effects of teenage childbearing on the short and long-term health behaviors of mothers. Journal of Population Economics, 25, 201–218.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Fletcher, J., & Wolfe, B. (2009). Education and labor market consequences of teenage childbearing: Evidence using the timing of pregnancy outcomes and community fixed effects. Journal of Human Resources, 44, 303–325.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Fletcher, J. M., & Wolfe, B. L. (2012). The effects of teenage fatherhood on young adult outcomes. Economic Inquiry, 50(1), 182–201.Google Scholar
  19. Geronimus, A. T., & Korenman, S. (1992). The socioeconomic consequences of teen childbearing reconsidered. Quarterly Journal of Economics, 107(4), 1187–1214.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Geronimus, A. T., & Korenman, S. (1993). The socioeconomic consequences of teen childbearing: Evidence and interpretation. Demography, 30, 281–296.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Giving USA 2012: The Annual Report on Philanthropy for the Year 2011. Giving USA Foundation Headquarters, Chicago, IL.Google Scholar
  22. Giving USA 2015: The Annual Report on Philanthropy for the Year 2014. Available at: Giving USA Foundation Headquarters, Chicago, IL.Google Scholar
  23. Heckman, J. J., Ichimura, H., & Todd, P. (1998). Matching as an econometric evaluation estimator. Review of Economic Studies, 65.2, 261–294.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Herbst, C. M., & Ifcher, J. (2016). The increasing happiness of US parents. Review of Economics of the Household, 14(3), 529–551.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Hoffman, S. D. (1998). Teenage childbearing is not so bad after all…or is it? A review of the new literature. Family Planning Perspectives, 30(5), 236–239.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Hoffman, S. D., Foster, E. M., & Furstenberg., F. F. (1993). Re-evaluating the costs of teenage childbearing. Demography, 30(1), 1–13.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Hotz, V., Joseph, S. W., McElroy, & Sanders, S. G. (2005). Teenage childbearing and its life cycle consequences: Exploiting a natural experiment. Journal of Human Resources, 40(3), 683–715.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Isham, J., Kolodinsky, J., & Kimberly, G. (2006). The effects of volunteering for nonprofit organizations on social capital formation: Evidence from a statewide survey. Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly, 35(3), 367–383.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Joint Committee on Taxation. (2011). Background information on tax expenditure analysis and historical survey of tax expenditure estimates. Washington, DC: Joint Committee on Taxation. JCX-15-11.Google Scholar
  30. Jones-Correa, M. A., & David, L. L. (2001). Political participation: Does religion matter? Political Research Quarterly, 54(4), 751–770.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Joyner, K., Peters, H. E., Hynes, K., Sikora, A., Taber, J. R., & Rendall, M. S. (2012). The quality of male fertility data in major U.S. surveys. Demography, 49(1), 101–124.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Klepinger, D., Lundberg, S., & Plotnick, R. (1995). Adolescent fertility and the educational attainment of young women. Family Planning Perspectives, 27(1), 23–28.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Klepinger, D., Lundberg, S., & Plotnick, R. (1999). How does adolescent fertility affect the human capital and wages of young women? Journal of Human Resources, 34(3), 421–448.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Levine, D. I., & Painter, G. (2003). The schooling costs of teenage out-of-Wedlock childbearing: Analysis with a within-school propensity score matching estimator. Review of Economics and Statistics, 85(4), 884–900.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. La Due Lake, R., & Huckfeldt, R. (1998). Social capital, social networks, and political participation. Political Psychology, 19(3), 567–584.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Levin-Waldman, Oren (2012). Rising income inequality and declining civic participation. Challenge, 55.3, 51–70.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Marini, M. M. (1984). Women’s educational attainment and the timing of entry into parenthood. American Sociological Review, 49(Aug), 491–511.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. McIntosh, H., Hart, D., & Youniss, J. (2007). The influence of family political discussion on youth civic development: Which parent qualities matter? PS: Political Science & Politics, 40(03), 495–499.Google Scholar
  39. National Center for Charitable Statistics (2015). Quick Facts about Non-profits. NCCS. Available at:
  40. Nie, N. H., Junn, J., & Stehlik-Barry, K. (1996). Education and democratic citizenship in America. Chicago: Univ. Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  41. Olsen, R. J., & Farkas, G. (1989). Endogenous covariates in duration models and the effect of adolescent childbirth on schooling. Journal of Human Resources, 24(1), 39–53.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Pacheco, J. S., & Plutzer, E. (2007). Stay in school, don’t become a parent teen life transitions and cumulative disadvantages for voter turnout. American Politics Research, 35(1), 32–56.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Pacheco, J. S., & Plutzer, E. (2008). Political participation and cumulative disadvantage: The impact of economic and social hardship on young citizens. Journal of Social Issues, 64(3), 571–593.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Pew Research Center (2016). Available at: Scholar
  45. Popenoe, D. (1996). Life without father: Compelling new evidence that fatherhood and marriage are indispensable for the good of children and society. New York: The Free Press.Google Scholar
  46. Putnam, R. D., Leonardi, R., & Nanetti, R. Y. (1994). Making democracy work: Civic traditions in modern Italy. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  47. Rendall, M. S., Clarke, L., Peters, H. E., Ranjit, N., & Verropolou, G. (1999). Incomplete reporting of men’s fertility in the United States and Britain: A research note? Demography, 36, 135–144.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Ribar, D. C. (1994). Teenage fertility and high school completion. Review of Economics and Statistics, 76(3), 413–424.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Ribar, D. C. (1999). The socioeconomic consequences of young women’s childbearing: Reconciling disparate evidence. Journal of Population Economics, 12(4), 547–565.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Rindfuss, R., Bumpass, L., & St. John, C. (1980). Education and fertility: Implications for the roles women occupy. American Sociological Review, 45(3), 431–447.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Skocpol, T., & Fiorina, M. P. (Eds) (2004). Civic engagement in American democracy. Washington DC: Brookings Institution Press.Google Scholar
  52. Somin, I. (2010). Deliberative democracy and political ignorance. Critical Review, 22(2–3), 253–279.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Staiger, D., & Stock, J. H. (1997). Instrumental variables regression with weak instruments. Econometrica : Journal of the Econometric Society, 65, 557–586.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. United Nations (2012). UNDP Strategy on Civil Society and Civic Engagement, October 2012. Available at:
  55. Webbink, D., Martin, N. G., & Visscher., P. M. (2008). Does teenage childbearing increase smoking, drinking and body size? Journal of Health Economics, 27(4), 888–903.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Wiepking, P. (2009). Resources that make you generous: Effects of social and human resources on charitable giving. Social Forces, 87(4), 1973–1995.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Joseph J. Sabia
    • 1
    Email author
  • Joseph P. Price
    • 2
  • H. Elizabeth Peters
    • 3
  • Reginald Covington
    • 4
  1. 1.Forrest McKerley Chair of Health EconomicsUniversity of New Hampshire, San Diego State University, ESSPRI & IZASan DiegoUSA
  2. 2.Brigham Young University, NBER & IZAProvoUSA
  3. 3.Center on Labor, Human Services, and PopulationUrban InstituteWashingtonUSA
  4. 4.Mathematica Policy ResearchPrincetonUSA

Personalised recommendations