Kevin Lang, 02 March 2014

Although teen birth rates have been decreasing in the past two decades, teen motherhood continues to be an important public policy issue. Women who give birth as teens (and their children) have much worse outcomes as adults than those who did not. An alternative explanation is that teen mothers have had disadvantaged childhoods. This column reviews research that tries to disentangle the causation from the correlation, using biological fertility shocks. The most consistent results state that there are no large adverse adult outcomes stemming from teenage motherhood. The key to reduce teen pregnancy is changing the environment. Policies should focus on providing opportunities that disadvantaged women would not like to forgo due to a teen birth.

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