Do adolescent births and abortions mediate the pathway from parents’ to own socioeconomic position?

Heini E. Väisänen, University of Southampton

Studies have shown one’s socioeconomic status is associated with that of their parents in Finland and elsewhere. However, few studies examine the extent to which teen fertility behaviour mediates this association. Instead, most studies on teenage motherhood focus on the causal association between early childbearing and socioeconomic position. This study shows that a part of the association between parents’ and individuals own socioeconomic status in Finland is due to fertility behaviour in adolescence even when taking into account that teenage mothers often come from less advantaged backgrounds than those who postpone childbearing. Unlike most previous research on the topic, this paper also examines the socioeconomic outcomes of those who had an abortion as a teenager and shows that it did not mediate the association from parents’ to own socioeconomic status. A set of register data of three cohorts of Finnish women (N=274,908) was analysed using a recently developed Karlson-Holm-Breen mediation method. Up to nine percent of the total association between parents’ socioeconomic status and own education was explained by having had a teen birth, but teen abortions were not important mediators. Furthermore, educational attainment and further births in early 20s were important predictors of these women’s income level and probability of unemployment at age 30. These associations may be due to accumulation of disadvantage and unobserved characteristics affecting both timing and outcomes of pregnancies and educational attainment. In order to break the cycle of disadvantage, policy-makers should help young mothers in completing education.

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Presented in Session 104: The economic context of childbearing