The Effect of Local Economic Downturns on Teen Births: Evidence from North Carolina Plant Closings

Elizabeth O. Ananat, Duke University
Anna Gassman-Pines, Duke University
Christina M. Gibson-Davis, Duke University

Using North Carolina job loss and birth record data from 1997 to 2008, we estimate the effects of local economic downturns on the birthrates of unmarried 15- to 19-year-olds. We use county-level firm closings and layoffs as plausibly exogenous sources of variation in local economic conditions. We find no statistically significant effects of job loss on groups with low baseline fertility. Among blacks ages 18 to 19, we find that a loss of jobs to 1% of the working-age population decreases the probability of becoming a mother by 3%. Linking the timing of job losses to the timing of conceptions suggests that changes in the birthrate arise from increased terminations. We find no evidence that closings affect county birthrates zero to three months later, suggesting that women do not anticipate job losses ahead of time and lending confidence that losses are “shocks” that can be viewed as quasi-experimental variation.

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Presented in Session 63: Economics of Fertility