NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
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Does Education Reduce Teen Fertility? Evidence from Compulsory Schooling Laws

Philip DeCicca, Harry Krashinsky

NBER Working Paper No. 21594
Issued in September 2015
NBER Program(s):Economics of Education Program, Health Economics Program, Labor Studies Program

While less-educated women are more likely to give birth as teenagers, there is scant evidence the relationship is causal. We investigate this possibility using variation in compulsory schooling laws (CSLs) to identify the impact of formal education on teen fertility for a large sample of women drawn from multiple waves of the Canadian Census. We find that greater CSL-induced schooling reduces the probability of giving birth as a teenager by roughly two to three percentage points. We find evidence that education affects the timing of births in a way that strongly implies an “incarceration” effect of education. In particular, we find large negative impacts of education on births to young women aged seventeen and eighteen, but little evidence of an effect after these ages, consistent with the idea that being enrolled in school deters fertility in a contemporaneous manner. Our findings are robust to the inclusion of several province-level characteristics including multiple dimensions of school quality, expenditures on public programs and region-specific time trends.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w21594

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