IDEAS home Printed from https://ideas.repec.org/
MyIDEAS: Login to save this paper or follow this series

Teenage Childbearing and Its Life Cycle Consequences: Exploiting a Natural Experiment

  • V. Joseph Hotz
  • Seth G. Sanders
  • Susan Williams McElroy

In this paper, we exploit a 'natural experiment' associated with human reproduction to identify the effect of teen childbearing on subsequent educational attainment, family structure, labor market outcomes and financial self-sufficiency. In particular, we exploit the fact that a substantial fraction of women who become pregnant experience a miscarriage (spontaneous abortion) and thus do not have a birth. If miscarriages were purely random and if miscarriages were the only way, other than by live births, that a pregnancy ended, then women, who had a miscarriage as a teen, would constitute an ideal control group with which to contrast teenage mothers. Exploiting this natural experiment, we devise an Instrumental Variables (IV) estimators for the consequences of teen mothers not delaying their childbearing, using data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth, 1979 (NLSY79). Our major finding is that many of the negative consequences of not delaying childbearing until adulthood are much smaller than has been estimated in previous studies. While we do find adverse consequences of teenage childbearing immediately following a teen mother's first birth, these negative consequences appear short- lived. By the time a teen mother reachers her late twenties, she appears to have only slightly more children, is only slightly more likely to be single mother, and has no lower levels of educational attainment than if she had delayed her childbearing to adulthood. In fact, by this age teen mothers appear to be better off in some aspects of their lives. Teenage childbearing appears to raise levels of labor supply, accumulated work experience and labor market earnings and appears to reduce the chances of living in poverty and participating in the associated social welfare programs. These estimated effects imply that the cost of teenage childbearing to U.S. taxpayers is negligible. In particular, our estimates imply that the widely held view that teenage childbearing imposes a substantial cost on government is an artifact of the failure to appropriately account for pre- existing socioeconomic differences between teen mothers and other women when estimating the causal effects of early childbearing. While teen mothers are very likely to live in poverty and experience other forms of adversity, our results imply that little of this would be changed just by getting teen mothers to delay their childbearing into adulthood.

If you experience problems downloading a file, check if you have the proper application to view it first. In case of further problems read the IDEAS help page. Note that these files are not on the IDEAS site. Please be patient as the files may be large.

File URL: http://www.nber.org/papers/w7397.pdf
Download Restriction: no

Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 7397.

as
in new window

Length:
Date of creation: Oct 1999
Date of revision:
Publication status: published as McElroy, S. and S. Sanders. “Teenage Childbearing and Its Life Cycle Consequences: Exploiting a Very Natural Experiment." Journal of Human Resources 40, 3 (Summer 2005): 683-715.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:7397
Note: CH
Contact details of provider: Postal: National Bureau of Economic Research, 1050 Massachusetts Avenue Cambridge, MA 02138, U.S.A.
Phone: 617-868-3900
Web page: http://www.nber.org
Email:


More information through EDIRC

References listed on IDEAS
Please report citation or reference errors to , or , if you are the registered author of the cited work, log in to your RePEc Author Service profile, click on "citations" and make appropriate adjustments.:

as in new window
  1. Hotz, V Joseph & Mullin, Charles H & Sanders, Seth G, 1997. "Bounding Causal Effects Using Data from a Contaminated Natural Experiment: Analysing the Effects of Teenage Childbearing," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 64(4), pages 575-603, October.
  2. Geronimus, Arline T & Korenman, Sanders, 1992. "The Socioeconomic Consequences of Teen Childbearing Reconsidered," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 107(4), pages 1187-214, November.
  3. Stephen V. Cameron & James J. Heckman, 1991. "The Nonequivalence of High School Equivalents," NBER Working Papers 3804, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. Juhn, Chinhui & Murphy, Kevin M & Pierce, Brooks, 1993. "Wage Inequality and the Rise in Returns to Skill," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 101(3), pages 410-42, June.
  5. Josefine Card, 1981. "Long-term consequences for children of teenage parents," Demography, Springer, vol. 18(2), pages 137-156, May.
  6. Angrist, J.D. & Imbens, G.W., 1991. "Sources of identifying information in evaluation models," Discussion Paper 1991-42, Tilburg University, Center for Economic Research.
  7. Bronars, Stephen G & Grogger, Jeff, 1994. "The Economic Consequences of Unwed Motherhood: Using Twin Births as a Natural Experiment," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 84(5), pages 1141-56, December.
  8. Ribar, D.C., 1992. "Teenage Fertility and Early Adult Labor Force Participation," Papers 4-92-1, Pennsylvania State - Department of Economics.
  9. repec:dgr:kubcen:199142 is not listed on IDEAS
  10. James J. Heckman, 1991. "Randomization and Social Policy Evaluation," NBER Technical Working Papers 0107, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  11. Rosenzweig, Mark R & Wolpin, Kenneth I, 1995. "Sisters, Siblings, and Mothers: The Effect of Teen-Age Childbearing on Birth Outcomes in a Dynamic Family Context," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 63(2), pages 303-26, March.
Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

This item is not listed on Wikipedia, on a reading list or among the top items on IDEAS.

When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:7397. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: ()

If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.

If the full references list an item that is present in RePEc, but the system did not link to it, you can help with this form.

If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

This information is provided to you by IDEAS at the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis using RePEc data.