Teen Childbearing and Conservative Religious Communities
The importance of neighborhood background characteristics on socioeconomic outcomes is uncertain because some dimensions of neighborhood quality such as social norms and social cohesion are difficult to measure. This paper shows that teen childbearing declines with increases in the fraction of a community’s religious adherents who are Catholics or Conservative Protestants. This finding is not simply due to related differences in local economic costs and benefits or with unobserved family or individual characteristics. Instead the results reflect social norms about teen sexual activity. They indicate that policy choices should take account of the influence of norms on individual behavior.
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