More compulsory schooling results in fewer teenage pregnancies. This is shown in a major survey carried out recently at the Norwegian School of Economics and Business Administration (NHH). More school means less time for so-called risk activities, such as getting pregnant. And – the more schooling they have, the smarter the choices girls make.
That is the conclusion of an article Professor Kjell Gunnar Salvanes has had published in the Economic Journal. Professor Salvanes co-authored the article Staying in the classroom and out of the maternityward: The effect of compulsory schooling laws on teenage births with Sandra E Black and Paul J Devereux. It is the result of a cooperative project over several years.
The results show that one direct effect of more compulsory schooling is that more girls decide to postpone having children. This is entirely positive, believes Professor Salvanes, who points to extensive research documenting the undesirable effects of teenage pregnancies.
The researchers have compared conditions in Norway and the USA. Here in Norway, teenage mothers receive financial support from the state, which they do not in the USA. Teenage pregnancies are nonetheless far more common in the USA than they are here. Professor Salvanes’s research appears to indicate that the extent of compulsory schooling may be an explanatory factor. The researchers have examined the connection between education and child bearing. One hypothesis is that more school means less time for risk activities, such as getting pregnant. This is called the ‘confinement effect.’
Another effect of more school is an increase in human capital. The girls gain insight and knowledge, and this, combined with expectations of even more human capital in future, leads to girls postponing having children. The more education they have, the greater their expectations of their own educational level. Thus, these two effects of more compulsory schooling result in fewer teenage pregnancies. It also affects future choice of occupation and other choices.
Differences follow families
‘The family is the most important factor by far in explaining investment in human capital,’ says Professor Salvanes. ‘That is why it was interesting to look at the connections between more education and fertility-related issues. We wanted to find out whether it is possible to reduce the probability of teenage pregnancies by providing a higher level of education.’
In an article from 2004, Why the apple doesn’t fall far: Understanding intergenerational transmission of human capital, Salvanes and his coauthors looked at the mechanisms that lead some people and not others to invest in education. If girls manage to get through their teenage years without becoming pregnant, they will be more likely to take higher education. But why do some take higher education and some not?
And what is the reason for these differences? These questions are central to research in this field, and in his 2004 article Professor Salvanes presented different views on this production process. One explanation argues that there is a close connection between parents and children as regards education. Parents with higher education have children who take higher education. The other explanation places greater emphasis on parents’ preferences. Some people simply have a higher preference for cognitive knowledge than others.
Professor Salvanes’s findings lean towards the latter explanation, i.e. that the family, and particularly the organisation of the family, is the key to understanding the production of human capital. Even though the parents’ educational level has consequences for the children’s educational level, this has nothing to do with the parents’ educational level as such.
Materials provided by Norwegian School of Economics and Business Administration (NHH). Note: Content may be edited for style and length.
Cite This Page: