Early research on the consequences of teenage childbearing showed that both teen mothers and their offspring are disadvantaged relative to women (and their children) who delay their fertility. Based on this research, policymakers have responded by making the reduction of teenage pregnancy and childbearing an explicit goal of several federal social policy programs, such as the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program (Koball, 2007) and abstinence education. More recent research, however, has called into question the nature of the relationship. Scholars have asked whether the negative outcomes that teen mothers and their children experience are the result of early childbearing or the result of other unmeasured characteristics of young women who bear children at an early age. For example, teenage childbearing is associated with low socioeconomic status. If teen mothers tend to attend schools of poor quality or live in unsafe neighborhoods, researchers argued, then one might expect poor outcomes for teen mothers and their children due, not to their having a child at a young age, but due to the poor schools or unsafe neighborhoods. This recent evidence, that took these unobserved omitted factors into consideration, suggests that the early findings that showed large disparities in outcomes between teen mothers and mothers who delay fertility may have overstated the impact of teenage childbearing (Hoffman, 1998). This study proposes to create a novel data set to investigate health outcomes for both teen mothers and their children that occurred near the birth of the child. By using variation in the outcomes of mothers and their children as the mothers'age, it is possible to """"""""control"""""""" for the many time-invariant unobserved factors that present problems in the prior research. These fixed effects models utilize variation in outcomes for a single mother making factors, such as the quality of the school she attended, irrelevant. The quality of the school should have as much influence on her teen birth as her nonteen birth. The analytic approach also accounts for the differences one naturally observes between a first birth and a second birth, for instance. Finally, this study uses health outcomes for the teen mothers, her prenatal behavior, her risk factors, and her labor and delivery outcomes. The author will also investigate the health of the child at birth, such as birth weight and congenital anomalies. While there have been several studies on the labor market outcomes and human capital accumulation of teen mothers, the research on the health consequences of teenage childbearing for the mother and child is quite limited. The two studies on the topic are based on the same data from the late 1970s through most of the 1980s. This study uses recent data and an analytic technique that accounts for the potential bias caused by unobserved time-invariant factors, possibly the first, using within mother variation and investigates outcomes that have received little attention heretofore.

Public Health Relevance

This proposed study aims to estimate the health consequences of a teen birth for both the mother and her child. Many recent public policies, perhaps most notably, the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program, have made the reduction of teenage childbearing an important goal of the program &many policymakers assume that teenage childbearing is harmful to children. Research to date primarily investigates the labor market outcomes for teen mothers only;this study will inform policymakers about the health consequences of teenage childbearing contributing more information to policy debates on the implications of teenage motherhood.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health & Human Development (NICHD)
Small Research Grants (R03)
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Pediatrics Subcommittee (CHHD)
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Bures, Regina M
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Syracuse University
Other Domestic Higher Education
United States
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Lopoo, Leonard M; Raissian, Kerri M (2012) Natalist policies in the United States. J Policy Anal Manage 31:905-46
Lopoo, Leonard M (2011) Labor and delivery complications among teenage mothers. Biodemography Soc Biol 57:200-20