Reevaluating the Socioeconomic Effects of Teenage Childbearing: A Counterfactual Approach

Dohoon Lee, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Despite the debate over 30 years on the socioeconomic effects of teenage childbearing, the consensus on its “true” effects is still unsettled. The debate is centered on theoretical considerations of early motherhood as a harmful event and/or teen mothers’ preexisting socioeconomic disadvantages, and methodological challenges against selection bias. Alternative models have been developed, but tend to rely on strong assumptions and unrepresentative samples. This study extends this literature by employing a counterfactual approach using propensity score matching, and data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (Add Health). The counterfactual analysis attempts to obtain the causal effects of teenage childbearing by identifying better comparison groups to teen mothers, based on observed covariates. A sensitivity analysis is conducted to address selection bias on unobserved covariates. Add Health helps to capture recent changes in welfare policy and adolescent population composition. This study expects to produce new insights into the relationship between teenage childbearing and its socioeconomic consequences.

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Presented in Session 37: Timing of Childbearing