The Timing of Teenage Births and the Signaling Value of a High School Degree
37 Pages Posted: 14 Sep 2016
Date Written: September 1, 2016
This paper estimates the effect of high school graduation on later life outcomes for young women who have a child as a teenager. Teenage mothers tend to have poor economic outcomes later in life. However, the girls who become teenage mothers come from less advantaged backgrounds than those who delay childbearing, making causality difficult to establish. This paper examines the effect of having a child around the time of high school graduation, comparing young mothers who had their child before their expected graduation date to those who had their child after. Examining this question builds our understanding both of the long run consequences of teenage fertility and the signaling value of a high school diploma. We find that girls who give birth during the school year are 7 percent less likely to graduate from high school; however, this has little effect on their eventual labor market outcomes. Despite being much more likely to obtain a high school degree, the control group does not enjoy higher labor earnings later in life, suggesting that the signaling value of a high school degree is zero for this population.
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