Trends in teenage childbearing and schooling outcomes for children born to teens in South Africa

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2015-05-28

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University of Cape Town

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Teenage childbearing is considered a social problem with costs to the teenage mother, her child and society at large. In South Africa, media attention suggests a contemporary crisis in teen childbearing; often linking this to a fear that the Child Support Grant incentivises motherhood among teens. Despite these assertions, there is little empirical research assessing the trends in teen childbearing over time in South Africa and the intergenerational consequences of teenage childbearing. This paper uses six nationally representative household surveys to show that, while teenage childbearing decreased between 1980 and 2008, it is not an uncommon event in South Africa. Around 25% of women gave birth before age 20 in 2008. Children born to teen mothers are found to have worse educational outcomes, with children of young teen mothers most at risk. Differences are found between population groups, with the association largest and increasing over time for coloureds and relatively small and stable for Africans. About half the association can be explained by relative levels of poverty and maternal education.

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