Like Teenage Mother, like Daughter? Black-White Differences in Maternal Age Effects on Teenage Childbearing

Poh Lin Tan, Duke University
Philip J. Cook, Duke University

Black women are at much higher risk of teenage childbearing. This paper examines the extent to which the higher risk can be attributed to black-white differences in maternal age distributions and effects. Using administrative data on 35,544 first births in North Carolina, we find that the increased risk is primarily due to the fact that black women born to adult mothers are at much higher risk than their white counterparts. (White and black women born to teenage mothers are at similar risk.) We apply an order-invariant decomposition method and show that two-thirds of the black-white gap in maternal age effects can be explained by weaker associations between paternal characteristics and teenage fertility outcomes among blacks. Our analysis suggests that successive generations of black women continue to face disadvantage even after one generation escapes it, and highlights the potential impacts of weaker marital prospects among black women on teenage fertility.

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Presented in Session 13: Contextual Influences on Adolescent Sexual and Reproductive Health