The Effects of Teenage Fatherhood on Young Adult Outcomes

By Fletcher, Jason M.; Wolfe, Barbara L. | Economic Inquiry, January 2012 | Go to article overview

The Effects of Teenage Fatherhood on Young Adult Outcomes


Fletcher, Jason M., Wolfe, Barbara L., Economic Inquiry


I. INTRODUCTION

Public interest in the issue of teenage childbearing has recently increased, largely because of increases in both the teen pregnancy rate and the teen birth rate; these trends are viewed with particular concern in that they reverse the decline in these trends that began in 1991. But how large are the consequences of a teenage birth to the society and in particular, the young men and women who become parents at a young age? In this paper, we examine the educational and labor market effects, and other young adult outcomes of teenage fatherhood, a less researched topic.

There is an extensive literature on the consequences of teen parenting for women. In that literature, there are several important lessons that will be valuable for our focus on teenage fatherhood. The early work in the consequences of teenage parenthood for young women compared outcomes of teenagers who gave birth with teenagers who did not and found large "effects." Later studies utilized the timing of pregnancies before and after the teenage years and found smaller, but still important relationships. A key innovation appeared in the study of Hotz, McElroy, and Sanders (2005), where the authors used miscarriages as quasinatural experiments and found no or even positive effects of teenage childbearing on economic outcomes. More recently, Ashcraft and Lang (2006) and Fletcher and Wolfe (2009) used information on the timing of miscarriages to show that teenage childbearing has modest negative effects on several educational and labor market outcomes for teen mothers. While these advances (and others) have substantially added to our knowledge of the consequences of teenage motherhood, much less is known about the consequences of teenage fatherhood.

This paper represents the first research to extend the most recent methods that have been used to examine the consequences of teenage motherhood in order to examine such consequences for teenage fathers. To accomplish this, we used a nationally representative longitudinal data set on adolescents as they make their transition into young adulthood. After conducting some comparisons of pregnancy outcomes for teenagers across genders and a discussion of reporting issues, we turn to the consequences of teenage fatherhood. We begin by estimating results using standard comparison groups, including all young men who did not become fathers. We then extend the literature by comparing young men whose partners experienced a pregnancy with those whose partners gave birth. Finally, we eliminate comparisons of pregnancies that ended in abortion in order to compare young fathers only with those young men whose partners experienced a miscarriage.

Generally, we find evidence that teenage fatherhood shifts educational outcomes by decreasing years of schooling and the likelihood of receiving a high school diploma and increasing general educational development (GED) receipt. Teenage fatherhood also increases the likelihood of early marriage and cohabitation. We find few detectable short-term effects on labor outcomes, including no detectable effects on labor income and employment status; however, we find some evidence of increased full-time employment and military employment following a birth. Importantly, in many cases there are sizable differences between the estimates using the standard comparisons made in the literature and our estimates. Finally, in order to provide some suggestive evidence of whether the consequences are different for those who seek to avoid a pregnancy versus those who do not take steps to avoid the pregnancy, we show that teens who practiced birth control preceding the birth face smaller consequences than those who do not practice birth control. This difference is likely to reflect otherwise unobserved differences in future orientation and ability to plan and thus better capture the consequences of teenage pregnancy.

II. BACKGROUND LITERATURE

As of 2001, the official rate of teen fatherhood for males aged 15-19 was 18. …

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