The Timing of Teenage Births: Estimating the Effect on High School Graduation and Later-Life Outcomes
We examine the long-term outcomes for a population of teenage mothers who give birth to their children around the end of high school. We compare the mothers whose high school education was interrupted by childbirth (because the child was born before her expected graduation date) with mothers who did not experience the same disruption to their education. We find that mothers who gave birth during the school year are 5.4 percentage points less likely to complete their high school education, are less likely to be married, and have more children than their counterparts who gave birth just a few months later. The wages for these two sets of teenage mothers are not statistically different, but with a lower likelihood of marriage and more children, the households of the treated mothers are more likely to fall below the poverty threshold. Although differences in educational attainment have narrowed over time, the differences in labor market outcomes and family structure have remained stable.
KeywordsTeenage childbearing Signaling value Education Family structure
We thank Marianne Page, Hilary Hoynes, Scott Carrell, Jeremy Moulton, Jason Lindo, Martha Stinson, Marie Hull, Julie Cullen, Amanda Gaulke, four anonymous referees, and seminar participants at UC Davis, The Vienna Institute of Demography Colloquium, The University of Kentucky, the Southern Economic Association, South Carolina Applied Micro Day, and the Society of Labor Economists annual meetings for their helpful comments and suggestions. Any opinions and conclusions expressed herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of the U.S. Census Bureau. All results have been reviewed to ensure that no confidential information is disclosed.
- Abrahamse, A. F., Morrison, P. A., & Waite, L. J. (1988). Beyond stereotypes: Who becomes a single teenage mother? (Report). Santa Monica, CA: The Rand Corporation.Google Scholar
- Chung, Y., Downs, B., Sandler, D. H., & Sienkiewicz, R. (2017). The parental gender earnings gap in the United States (CES Working Paper No. 17-68). Washington, DC: U.S. Census Bureau, Center for Economic Studies.Google Scholar
- Ellwood, D. (1989). Poor support. New York, NY: Basic Books.Google Scholar
- Hayes, C. D. (Ed.). (1987). Risking the future: Adolescent sexuality, pregnancy, and childbearing (Vol. I). Washington, DC: National Academy Press.Google Scholar
- Kuka, E., Shenhav, N., & Shih K. (2018). Do human capital decisions respond to the returns to education? Evidence from DACA (NBER Working Paper No. 24315). Cambridge, MA: National Bureau of Economic Research.Google Scholar
- Lang, K., & Weinstein, R. (2015). The consequences of teenage childbearing before Roe v. Wade. American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, 7(4), 169–197.Google Scholar
- U.S. Census Bureau. (1980). Decennial census 1980 [Data file]. Retrieved from https://www.census.gov/fsrdc
- U.S. Census Bureau. (2000). Decennial census 2000 [Data file]. Retrieved from https://www.census.gov/fsrdc
- U.S. Census Bureau. (2005–2014). American Community Survey 2005–2014 [Data file]. Retrieved from https://www.census.gov/fsrdc