Adolescent Employment and Fertility: Evidence for the Precocious Development Hypothesis

Emily Rauscher, New York University

Long-running debates about effects of adolescent employment have failed to reach consensus, possibly because studies frequently rely on local samples and fail to adequately address selection bias. Namely, the same characteristics that promote adolescent employment may also affect adolescent behavior and outcomes. Using the 2006 American Community Survey and state-level youth employment laws as an instrumental variable, this analysis estimates the effect of employment on adolescent fertility net of self-selection. Results indicate substantial self-selection into work and a net positive effect of employment on adolescent fertility, even in models addressing possible time-order problems. Findings contradict self-selection, social capital, and opportunity cost explanations for effects of work. Theories predicting a positive effect of youth employment on adolescent fertility are divided in their predicted effects of occupation type and earnings. Findings indicating that occupation and earnings complicate the effects of employment on fertility, support the precocious development hypothesis.

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Presented in Session 181: Causes and Consequences of Adolescent Behavior