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The Timing of Teenage Births and the Signaling Value of a High School Degree

Listed author(s):
  • Danielle H. Sandler
  • Lisa Schulkind

This paper estimates the effect of high school graduation on later life outcomes for young women who have a child as a teenager. Teenage mothers tend to have poor eco-nomic outcomes later in life. However, the girls who become teenage mothers come from less advantaged backgrounds than those who delay childbearing, making causality diffi-cult to establish. This paper examines the effect of having a child around the time of high school graduation, comparing young mothers who had their child before their expected graduation date to those who had their child after. Examining this question builds our un-derstanding both of the long run consequences of teenage fertility and the signaling value of a high school diploma. We find that girls who give birth during the school year are 7 percent less likely to graduate from high school; however, this has little effect on their eventual labor market outcomes. Despite being much more likely to obtain a high school degree, the control group does not enjoy higher labor earnings later in life, suggesting that the signaling value of a high school degree is zero for this population.

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File URL: https://www2.census.gov/ces/wp/2016/CES-WP-16-39.pdf
File Function: First version, 2016
Download Restriction: no

Paper provided by Center for Economic Studies, U.S. Census Bureau in its series Working Papers with number 16-39.

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Length: 37 pages
Date of creation: Jan 2016
Handle: RePEc:cen:wpaper:16-39
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  1. Adam Ashcraft & Iván Fernández‐Val & Kevin Lang, 2013. "The Consequences of Teenage Childbearing: Consistent Estimates When Abortion Makes Miscarriage Non‐random," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 123, pages 875-905, 09.
  2. V. Joseph Hotz & Susan Williams McElroy & Seth G. Sanders, 2005. "Teenage Childbearing and Its Life Cycle Consequences: Exploiting a Natural Experiment," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 40(3).
  3. John H. Tyler & Richard J. Murnane & John B. Willett, 2000. "Estimating the Labor Market Signaling Value of the GED," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 115(2), pages 431-468.
  4. Kasey S. Buckles & Daniel M. Hungerman, 2013. "Season of Birth and Later Outcomes: Old Questions, New Answers," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 95(3), pages 711-724, July.
  5. Kevin Lang Jr. & Russell Weinstein Jr., 2015. "The Consequences of Teenage Childbearing before Roe v. Wade," American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, American Economic Association, vol. 7(4), pages 169-197, October.
  6. Philip Oreopoulos & Marianne E. Page, 2006. "The Intergenerational Effects of Compulsory Schooling," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 24(4), pages 729-760, October.
  7. Damon Clark & Paco Martorell, 2014. "The Signaling Value of a High School Diploma," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 122(2), pages 282-318.
  8. Arline T. Geronimus & Sanders Korenman, 1992. "The Socioeconomic Consequences of Teen Childbearing Reconsidered," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 107(4), pages 1187-1214.
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