The Effect(s) of Teen Pregnancy: Reconciling Theory, Methods, and Findings

Christina J. Diaz, Jeremy E. Fiel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

58 Scopus citations


Although teenage mothers have lower educational attainment and earnings than women who delay fertility, causal interpretations of this relationship remain controversial. Scholars argue that there are reasons to predict negative, trivial, or even positive effects, and different methodological approaches provide some support for each perspective. We reconcile this ongoing debate by drawing on two heuristics: (1) each methodological strategy emphasizes different women in estimation procedures, and (2) the effects of teenage fertility likely vary in the population. Analyses of the Child and Young Adult Cohorts of the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth (N = 3,661) confirm that teen pregnancy has negative effects on most women’s attainment and earnings. More striking, however, is that effects on college completion and early earnings vary considerably and are most pronounced among those least likely to experience an early pregnancy. Further analyses suggest that teen pregnancy is particularly harmful for those with the brightest socioeconomic prospects and who are least prepared for the transition to motherhood.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)85-116
Number of pages32
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 1 2016


  • Effect heterogeneity
  • Socioeconomic attainment
  • Teenage childbearing
  • Teenage pregnancy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Demography


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