Maternal Age and Child Achievement

Greg J. Duncan, University of California, Irvine
Kenneth T. H. Lee, University of California, Irvine
Ariel Kalil, University of Chicago
Kathleen M. Ziol-Guest, New York University (NYU)

Drawing data from the Children of the NLSY79, we estimate differences in teenage achievement and problem behavior for children born to younger and older mothers. We distinguish between the value for children of being born to a mother who delayed her first birth and the value of the additional years between her first birth and the birth of the child whose outcomes are under study. We find that each year the mother delays a first birth is associated with between a .025 sd and .042 sd increase in school achievement and a .038 sd reduction in teen behavior problems. Coefficients are at least half as large for additional years between the first and given birth, even in the presence of controls for family fixed effects. Our mediational analyses shows that the primary pathway by which delaying first births benefits children is by enabling mothers to complete more schooling.

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Presented in Session 208: Consequences of Fertility Timing