Does Education Reduce Teen Fertility? Evidence From Compulsory Schooling Laws

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Speaker: Phil DeCicca

Date/Time: October 23, 10 AM – 12 PM

Location: Health Sciences Building (155 College Street, Toronto ON), Room HS 100


While less-educated women are more likely to give birth as teenagers, there is scant evidence the relationship is causal. We investigate this possibility using variation in compulsory schooling laws (CSLs) to identify the impact of formal education on teen fertility for a large sample of women drawn from multiple waves of the Canadian Census. We find that greater CSL-induced schooling reduces the probability of giving birth as a teenager by roughly two to three percentage points. We find evidence that education affects the timing of births in a way that strongly implies an “incarceration” effect of education. In particular, we find large negative impacts of education on births to young women aged seventeen and eighteen, but little evidence of an effect after these ages, consistent with the idea that being enrolled in school deters fertility in a contemporaneous manner. Our findings are robust to the inclusion of several province-level characteristics including multiple dimensions of school quality, expenditures on public programs and region-specific time trends.



Phil DeCicca is an Associate Professor of Economics at McMaster University, a Research Associate of the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) in Cambridge, MA and a member of CHEPA. He also holds a Canada Research Chair in Public Economics (Tier 2) and received the John Charles Polanyi Prize in economics in 2008. His research focuses primarily on relationships between public policies and individual behaviours, especially as they relate to health and education. DeCicca received his PhD from the University of Michigan, a MPA from Syracuse University and a BS from Cornell University.