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Wellesley study shows income inequality a key factor in high US teen births
Date:4/5/2012

WELLESLEY, Mass.New research reveals the surprising economics behind the high U.S. teen birth rates, and why Texas teens are giving birth at triple the rate of Massachusetts youth: high income inequality and low opportunity cost.

For the first time, Wellesley College economist Phillip B. Levine and University of Maryland economist Melissa Schettini Kearney conducted a large-scale empirical investigation to study the role that income inequality plays in determining early, non-marital childbearing. Using econometric analysis of large-scale data sets, Levine and Kearney discovered that variation in inequality across the United States and other developed countries can account for a sizable share of the stunning geographic variation in teen childbearing. They found that teens of low socioeconomic status were more likely to give birth if they lived in a state with high income inequality. Moving from a low inequality state to a high inequality state increased their rate of teen childbearing by 5 percentage points.

According to Levine, who teaches economics analyses of social policies as Katharine Coman and A. Barton Hepburn Professor of Economics at Wellesley College, it's long been argued that a sense of hopelessness and despair is closely related to higher rates of teen pregnancy. Levine explained, "If a young woman sees little chance of improving her life by investing in her education and career skills, or by marriage, she is more likely to choose the security, immediate gratification and happiness of parenthood. Our work captures this idea in a standard economics model of decision-making."

Levine and Kearney derive a formal economic model that incorporates the perception of economic success as a key factor driving one's decision to have an early, non-marital birth. Their findings show that for poor women living in locations of high inequality, limited opportunity reduces the opportunity cost of early, non-marital childbearing and
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Contact: Sofiya Cabalquinto
scabalqu@wellesley.edu
781-283-3321
Wellesley College
Source:Eurekalert  

Page: 1 2

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