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Teenage Fatherhood Found to Have Far-reaching Educational, Social Consequences

March 30, 2011
by Michael Greenwood
Teenage fathers face a range of life consequences compared with their peers who do not have children, including decreased educational achievements and increased likelihood of early marriage or cohabitation, a new study co-authored by a Yale School of Public Health researcher has found.

While the costs of teenage motherhood have been extensively studied and documented, there has been relatively little research into the economic and educational consequences faced by teenage fathers, said Jason M. Fletcher, Ph.D., an assistant professor at Yale.

In the study, published in this month’s issue of Economic Inquiry, Fletcher and co-author Barbara Wolfe, Ph.D., a professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, used data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health. Their dataset consisted of 362 men younger than 18 years and nine months. Specifically, they compared adolescent males whose partner’s pregnancy ended in miscarriage with those whose partners gave birth.

They found that while only 64 percent of the study group received a high school diploma, teenage fatherhood dramatically shifted this outcome by reducing the chances of graduating high school by 15 percentage points. Additionally, teenage fatherhood was also associated with an increased likelihood of early marriage and cohabitation: 26 percent of the young men surveyed were married and 62 percent were living with their partner. The rate of fatherhood for males ages 15 to 19 was 18.5 per 1,000.
“Having a child is a life-changing event that entails dramatic reallocation of time and financial expenses,” Fletcher said. “These results suggest that teenage fatherhood likely decreases human capital of the young fathers. We would do well as a nation to consider additional and innovative programs to reduce teen pregnancies and births.”

But the study also found some encouraging outcomes for teenage fathers. They were more likely to earn a GED (by 11 percentage points) and to find full-time employment (by 6 percentage points). Teenage fathers were also more likely, by 2 percentage points, to find employment in the military following the birth of their child.

Nevertheless, these fathers may yet experience longer term earnings and income differences as they age. The negative effects of teenage fatherhood may also limit the future social, educational and economic opportunities of their child, Fletcher said.

The study also found considerable variation in the impact of teenage fatherhood. Teenagers who used birth control preceding the birth of their child, for example, generally fared better than their peers who did not practice birth control. This may reflect differences in ability to plan for the future and understand implications of parenthood.
Submitted by Denise Meyer on June 27, 2012