• Article

Early Childbearing and Later Economic Well-Being

Early childbearing has been assumed to result in numerous social and economic problems, including school drop-out, large families, and poverty. However, few studies have been conducted within a multivariate, nonrecursive framework, and researchers have not traced the causal and cumulative effects of an early first birth. Using data from the National Longitudinal Surveys of young women on a subsample of women who have borne a child by age 27, we find strong direct effects within a path analytic framework, such that later childbearers complete more education, have smaller families, and work fewer hours at age 27. The relationship with education is recursive among women having a first child by age 18, but simultaneous among later childbearers. Effects of age at first birth on economic well-being at 27 are indirect. Lower education is related to reduced earnings among women and among other household members (usually the husband). Since resources must be divided among more family members, the incidence of poverty is greater. For women who are at least 19 when they have their first birth, the timing of that birth is important to later well-being primarily because of the smaller families and increased work experience of those who postpone their first birth into the twenties. Having an early first birth was found to be less detrimental to the later economic well-being of black women than white women


Hofferth, SL., & Moore, KA. (1979). Early Childbearing and Later Economic Well-Being. American Sociological Review, 44(5), 784-815.