Although teen birth rates have been decreasing in the past two decades, teen motherhood continues to be an important public policy issue. Women who give birth as teens (and their children) have much worse outcomes as adults than those who did not. An alternative explanation is that teen mothers have had disadvantaged childhoods. This column reviews research that tries to disentangle the causation from the correlation, using biological fertility shocks. The most consistent results state that there are no large adverse adult outcomes stemming from teenage motherhood. The key to reduce teen pregnancy is changing the environment. Policies should focus on providing opportunities that disadvantaged women would not like to forgo due to a teen birth.
Since China is growing rapidly, one might expect Chinese households to borrow against their future income. In fact, Chinese households save 30.5% of their income – compared to about 5% in OECD countries. This column discusses recent research linking the Chinese saving puzzle to China’s one-child policy. The savings rate of households with twins is about 6–7 percentage points lower than that of households with an only child. Demographic factors can explain an estimated 35–45% of the 20 percentage-point rise in China’s household saving rate between 1983 and 2011.
The gender gap in labour-force participation rates is still not closing up. Among other factors, cultural aspects may play a role. This column describes an experimental study, conducted with women from Italy, on the benefits of formal childcare on outcomes of children. Highly educated women are positively affected by the information about formal childcare. Low-educated mothers, however, do not increase their use of childcare facilities, or their labour supply.
There is a large and growing literature on peer effects, but much less is known about the role of friendships and social relationships in student outcomes. The best evidence on the mechanisms behind aggregate peer effects suggests an important role for discipline and disruption. Very recent research suggests that friends can also have a substantial effect on student outcomes, and in many cases the effect of friends appears to be independent of aggregate peer effects.
The perceived tone of a product or political advertisement affects public response – even holding constant the content of the message. This column provides evidence that men and women react differently to positive and negative tones in electoral advertisements. Negative advertising increases voter turnout among men but not women; positive advertising tends to win women’s sympathy but alienates men. This should inform gender-specific tailoring of targeted advertisements.
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Mulgan, 11 April 2014
Campos, Coricelli, Moretti