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.
- Teen fertility
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
- Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
- Psychiatry and Mental health