Long-term Effect of Exposure to a Friend's Adolescent Childbirth on Fertility, Education, and Earnings

Published in: Journal of Adolescent Health, 2016

Posted on RAND.org on June 30, 2016

by Kandice A. Kapinos, Olga Yakusheva

Read More

Access further information on this document at Journal of Adolescent Health

This article was published outside of RAND. The full text of the article can be found at the link above.

Research Question

  1. What is the effect of a female adolescent's exposure to a friend's adolescent childbearing on her own fertility, schooling, and earnings?

Purpose

To examine the long-term effect of a female adolescent's exposure to a peer's childbirth on fertility, schooling, and earnings.

Methods

Estimating causal peer effects in fertility is challenging because the exposure variable (peer pregnancy and childbirth) is nonrandomly assigned. Miscarriages in early pregnancy occur spontaneously in a significant proportion of pregnancies and, therefore, create a natural experiment within which the causal effect of childbirth can be examined. This exploratory study compared adjusted fertility, educational, and labor market outcomes of female adolescents whose adolescent pregnant friend gave birth to female adolescents whose pregnant friend miscarried. Longitudinal data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health were analyzed using logistic, ordinal logistic, linear, and log-linear regressions.

Results

Females whose adolescent pregnant friends gave birth (instead of miscarried) had decreased adolescent sexual activity, pregnancy, and teen childbearing and increased educational attainment, but there were no significant long-term effects on total fertility or differences in labor market outcomes, relative to females whose pregnant adolescent friend miscarried.

Conclusions

Adolescent females appear to learn vicariously from teen childbearing experiences of their friends, resulting in delayed childbearing and higher educational attainment. Interventions that expose adolescents to the reality of teen motherhood may be an effective way of reducing the rates of teen childbearing and improving schooling.

Key Findings

  • Females whose adolescent pregnant friends gave birth had decreased rates of sexual activity, pregnancy, and childbearing and increased educational attainment.
  • There were no significant long-term effects on total fertility or differences in labor market outcomes for the same teens relative to females whose pregnant adolescent friends miscarried.

This report is part of the RAND Corporation External publication series. Many RAND studies are published in peer-reviewed scholarly journals, as chapters in commercial books, or as documents published by other organizations.

Our mission to help improve policy and decisionmaking through research and analysis is enabled through our core values of quality and objectivity and our unwavering commitment to the highest level of integrity and ethical behavior. To help ensure our research and analysis are rigorous, objective, and nonpartisan, we subject our research publications to a robust and exacting quality-assurance process; avoid both the appearance and reality of financial and other conflicts of interest through staff training, project screening, and a policy of mandatory disclosure; and pursue transparency in our research engagements through our commitment to the open publication of our research findings and recommendations, disclosure of the source of funding of published research, and policies to ensure intellectual independence. For more information, visit www.rand.org/about/principles.

The RAND Corporation is a nonprofit institution that helps improve policy and decisionmaking through research and analysis. RAND's publications do not necessarily reflect the opinions of its research clients and sponsors.