Determinants of Teenage Childbearing in the United States
This dissertation consists of two original empirical studies on the determinants of teenage childbearing in the United States. The first study examines the impact of educational attainment on teenage childbearing, using school entry laws as an instrument for education and a highly detailed North Carolina administrative dataset that links birth certificate data to school administrative records. I show that being born after the school entry cutoff date affects educational success in offsetting ways, with a negative impact on years of education but positive impact on test scores. Using an IV regression strategy to distinguish the impacts of years of education and test scores, I show that both educational measures have negative impacts on teenage childbearing.
The second study examines potential causes of the decline in the U.S. teenage birth rate between 1991 and 2010. Using age-period-cohort models with Vital Statistics birth data and Census population counts, I show that the decline was driven by period changes in the early 1990s but by cohort changes between the mid-1990s and mid-2000s. I also use a difference-in-differences model to investigate the extent to which social policies in the 1970s-1980s can explain these cohort changes. The evidence suggests that while legalization of abortion for adult women and unilateral divorce laws had a significant impact on teenage birth rates in the 1990s-2000s, abortion legalization is unlikely to be a major explanation for the observed decline.
School entry laws
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