This setting lets you change the way you view articles. You can choose to have articles open in a dialog window, a new tab, or directly in the same window.
Open in Dialog
Open in New Tab
Open in same window

Journal of Economic Perspectives: Vol. 26 No. 2 (Spring 2012)

Expand

Quick Tools:

Print Article Summary
Export Citation
Sign up for Email Alerts Follow us on Twitter

Explore:

JEP - All Issues


Why Is the Teen Birth Rate in the United States So High and Why Does It Matter?

Article Citation

Kearney, Melissa S., and Phillip B. Levine. 2012. "Why Is the Teen Birth Rate in the United States So High and Why Does It Matter?" Journal of Economic Perspectives, 26(2): 141-63.

DOI: 10.1257/jep.26.2.141

Abstract

Why is the rate of teen childbearing is so unusually high in the United States as a whole, and in some U.S. states in particular? U.S. teens are two and a half times as likely to give birth as compared to teens in Canada, around four times as likely as teens in Germany or Norway, and almost ten times as likely as teens in Switzerland. A teenage girl in Mississippi is four times more likely to give birth than a teenage girl in New Hampshire—and 15 times more likely to give birth as a teen compared to a teenage girl in Switzerland. We examine teen birth rates alongside pregnancy, abortion, and "shotgun" marriage rates as well as the antecedent behaviors of sexual activity and contraceptive use. We demonstrate that variation in income inequality across U.S. states and developed countries can explain a sizable share of the geographic variation in teen childbearing. Our reading of the totality of evidence leads us to conclude that being on a low economic trajectory in life leads many teenage girls to have children while they are young and unmarried. Teen childbearing is explained by the low economic trajectory but is not an additional cause of later difficulties in life. Surprisingly, teen birth itself does not appear to have much direct economic consequence. Our view is that teen childbearing is so high in the United States because of underlying social and economic problems. It reflects a decision among a set of girls to "drop-out" of the economic mainstream; they choose nonmarital motherhood at a young age instead of investing in their own economic progress because they feel they have little chance of advancement.

Article Full-Text Access

Full-text Article (Complimentary)

Authors

Kearney, Melissa S. (U MD)
Levine, Phillip B. (Wellesley College)

JEL Classifications

J13: Fertility; Family Planning; Child Care; Children; Youth
R23: Urban, Rural, Regional, and Transportation Economics: Regional Migration; Regional Labor Markets; Population; Neighborhood Characteristics

Comments

View Comments on This Article (0) | Login to post a comment


Journal of Economic Perspectives


Quick Tools:

Sign up for Email Alerts

Follow us on Twitter

Subscription Information
(Institutional Administrator Access)

Explore:

JEP - All Issues

Virtual Field Journals


AEA Member Login:


AEAweb | AEA Journals | Contact Us