How Does Access to Health Care Affect Teen Fertility and High School Dropout Rates? Evidence from School-based Health Centers

Michael F. Lovenheim, Randall Reback, Leigh Wedenoja

NBER Working Paper No. 22030
Issued in February 2016
NBER Program(s):Children, Economics of Education, Health Economics, Public Economics

Children from low-income families face persistent barriers to accessing high-quality health care services. Previous research studies have examined the importance of expanding children's health insurance coverage, but there is little prior evidence concerning the impacts of directly expanding primary health care access to this population. We address this gap in the literature by exploring whether teenagers' access to primary health care influences their fertility and educational attainment. We study how the significant expansion of school-based health centers (SBHCs) in the United States since the early 1990's has affected teen fertility and high school dropout rates. Our results indicate that school-based health centers have a negative effect on teen birth rates: adding services equivalent to the average SBHC reduces the 15-18 year old birth rate by 5%. The effects are largest among younger teens and among African Americans and Hispanics. However, primary care health services do not reduce high school dropout rates by very much despite the sizable reductions in teen birth rates

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w22030

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