In High School and Pregnant: The Importance of Educational and Fertility Expectations for Subsequent Outcomes

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Economic Inquiry

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This study uses the High School and Beyond data (1980–1992) to examine the importance of educational and fertility expectations in explaining the achievement gap of adolescent mothers for over 5,500 young women from different socioeconomic backgrounds. Using a non-parametric local propensity score regression, the study finds that the economic disadvantage associated with having a child in high school is particularly large in poor socioeconomic environments; however, this disadvantage is a result of preexisting differences in the educational and fertility expectations and is not because of a diminished capacity of the socioeconomic environment to mediate the effect of an unplanned childbirth. The findings suggest that childcare assistance and other policies designed to alleviate the burden of child rearing for young mothers of low means may not produce the desired improvement in their subsequent educational and labor market outcomes. A much earlier policy intervention with a focus on fostering young women's outlook for the future is needed. (JEL J13)


Economic Inquiry, Vol. 49, No. 3 (July 2011): 810-837. DOI.