THE EFFECT OF COMPULSORY SCHOOLING LAWS ON TEENAGE BIRTHS
August 30, 2005
Increased compulsory schooling reduces the incidence of teenage childbearing in both the United States and Norway, say Sandra E. Black, Paul Devereux and Kjell Salvanes in a study for the National Bureau of Economic Research.
The authors used data on the Norwegian population collected by Statistics Norway and samples from the Decennial U.S. Census to examine whether changes in compulsory schooling laws affect the incidence of teenage childbearing. They found:
- Compelling a girl to stay in school until age 16 reduces the probability of a birth before age 20 by 0.008 in the United States and 0.006 in Norway.
- In each country, 17 percent of the women in the sample had a child as a teenager, implying that compulsory schooling until age 16 reduces the probability of a birth before age 20 by 4.7 percent in the United States and by about 3.5 percent in Norway.
- U.S. laws affected whites most strongly and laws in both countries had a stronger impact in urban areas.
- Evidence on the timing of the births in the sample suggest the incarceration effect (the fact that educational attendance reduces time available to engage in risky behavior) is at best weakly associated with birth outcomes.
The authors say legislation aimed at improving educational outcomes may have spillover effects on the fertility decisions of teenagers. They believe the similar estimates for the United States and Norway are noteworthy, considering the two countries are so different institutionally. Therefore, they say, policy interventions to increase female education at the lower tail of the education may be an effective means of reducing rates of teenage childbearing, regardless of the welfare structures in place.
Source: Linda Gorman, "The Effect of Compulsory Schooling Laws on Teenage Births," NBER Digest, June 2005; based upon: Sandra E. Black, Paul Devereux and Kjell Salvanes, "Fast Times at Ridgemont High? The Effect of Compulsory Schooling Laws on Teenage Births," National Bureau for Economic Research, Working Paper No. 10911, November 2004.
For NBER Working Paper No. 10911:
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