The Socioeconomic Consequences of Teen Childbearing Reconsidered
Teen childbearing is commonly viewed as an irrational behavior that leads to long-term socioeconomic disadvantage for mothers and their children. Cross-sectional studies that estimate relationships between maternal age at first birth and socioeconomic indicators measured later in life form the empirical basis for this view. However1 these studies have failed to account adequately for differences in family background among women who time their births at different ages. We present new estimates of the consequences of teen childbearing that take into account observed and unobserved family background heterogeneity, comparing sisters who have timed their first births at different ages. Sister comparisons suggest that previous estimates are biased by failure to control adequately for family background heterogeneity, and, as a result, have overstated the consequences of early fertility.