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Fast Times at Ridgemont High? The Effect of Compulsory Schooling Laws on Teenage Births

  • Sandra E. Black
  • Paul J. Devereaux
  • Kjell Salvanes

Research suggests that teenage childbearing adversely affects both the outcomes of the mothers as well as those of their children. We know that low-educated women are more likely to have a teenage birth, but does this imply that policies that increase educational attainment reduce early fertility? This paper investigates whether increasing mandatory educational attainment through compulsory schooling legislation encourages women to delay childbearing. We use variation induced by changes in compulsory schooling laws in both the United States and Norway to estimate the effect in two very different institutional environments. We find evidence that increased compulsory schooling does in fact reduce the incidence of teenage childbearing in both the United States and Norway, and these results are quite robust to various specification checks. Somewhat surprisingly, we also find that the magnitude of these effects is quite similar in the two countries. These results suggest that legislation aimed at improving educational outcomes may have spillover effects onto the fertility decisions of teenagers.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 10911.

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Date of creation: Nov 2004
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:10911
Note: CH ED LS
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  1. Shelly Lundberg & Daniel Klepinger & Robert Plotnick, 1998. "Teen Childbearing and Human Capital: Does Timing Matter?," Discussion Papers in Economics at the University of Washington 0057, Department of Economics at the University of Washington.
  2. Costas Meghir & Mårten Palme, 2003. "Ability, parental background and educational policy: empirical evidence from a social experiment," IFS Working Papers W03/05, Institute for Fiscal Studies.
  3. Lance Lochner & Enrico Moretti, 2004. "The Effect of Education on Crime: Evidence from Prison Inmates, Arrests, and Self-Reports," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 94(1), pages 155-189, March.
  4. Philip Oreopoulos, 2003. "Do Dropouts Drop Out Too Soon? Evidence from Changes in School-Leaving Laws," Working Papers oreo-03-01, University of Toronto, Department of Economics.
  5. Claudia Goldin & Lawrence Katz, 2003. "Mass Secondary Schooling and the State," NBER Working Papers 10075, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. 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).
  7. Paul J. Devereux & Sandra E. Black & Kjell G. Salvanes, 2003. "Why the apple doesn't fall far : understanding intergenerational transmission of human capital," Open Access publications 10197/750, School of Economics, University College Dublin.
  8. David I. Levine & Gary Painter, 2003. "The Schooling Costs of Teenage Out-of-Wedlock Childbearing: Analysis with a Within-School Propensity-Score-Matching Estimator," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 85(4), pages 884-900, November.
  9. Brian A. Jacob & Lars Lefgren, 2003. "Are Idle Hands the Devil's Workshop? Incapacitation, Concentration and Juvenile Crime," NBER Working Papers 9653, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  10. Claudia Goldin & Lawrence F. Katz, 2000. "The Power of the Pill: Oral Contraceptives and Women's Career and Marriage Decisions," NBER Working Papers 7527, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  11. Marianne Bertrand & Esther Duflo & Sendhil Mullainathan, 2002. "How Much Should We Trust Differences-in-Differences Estimates?," NBER Working Papers 8841, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  12. Marco Francesconi, 2008. "Adult Outcomes for Children of Teenage Mothers," Scandinavian Journal of Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 110(1), pages 93-117, 03.
  13. Hunt, Jennifer, 2003. "Teen Births Keep American Crime High," IZA Discussion Papers 757, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  14. Harmon, Colm & Walker, Ian, 1995. "Estimates of the Economic Return to Schooling for the United Kingdom," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 85(5), pages 1278-86, December.
  15. Adriana Lleras-Muney, 2002. "The Relationship Between Education and Adult Mortality in the United States," NBER Working Papers 8986, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  16. Black, Sandra & Devereux, Paul J. & Salvanes, Kjell G, 2003. "Why the Apple Doesn't Fall: Understanding Intergenerational Transmission of Human Capital," CEPR Discussion Papers 4150, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
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