Date of Award

5-2011

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Legacy Department

Economics

Advisor

Mroz, Thomas A.

Committee Member

Maloney , Michael T.

Committee Member

Wallace , Myles S.

Abstract

In the first chapter, I use exogenous variation in state minimum legal drinking ages to examine the relationship between restrictions on teen alcohol consumption and youth fertility. Using individual level data, I find that a decrease in the minimum drinking age during the late 1970s and 1980s leads, surprisingly, to a decrease in pregnancy rate among 15-17 year-old white women. The pregnancy rate among 15-17 year-old black women, on the other hand, significantly increases with the decrease in the drinking age. I find similar racial variations for unwanted pregnancies among 15-17 years old. The differentiated response to changes in eligibility requirements persist for 18-20 year-old women. I find evidence of a compositional change toward wanted pregnancies associated with the decrease in drinking age for 18-20 year-old white women; the eligibility restrictions have only a statistically weak effect on fertility of 18-20 year-old blacks and Hispanics. These effects can only be found in individual level data. Analysis of state-level aggregate fertility rates fails to reveal these important racial differences.
In the second chapter, I study the effect of alcohol consumption on youth fertility. Alcohol consumption is often believed to be a cause of risk-taking behaviors. Despite a well-established correlation between alcohol intake and various risk-taking sexual behaviors, the causality remains unknown. I attempt to establish a causal effect of alcohol use on the likelihood of pregnancy among youth using a variety of models ranging from a fully parametric to a semi-parametric discrete factor approximation method. Using data on 17-28 year-old women from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth, I find that even after controlling for unobserved heterogeneity alcohol consumption increases the likelihood of pregnancy by 4.7 percentage points. This positive effect was observed in the semi-parametric model where the cumulative distribution of heterogeneity was approximated by a 4-point discrete distribution. Quantitatively similar but statistically weaker estimates were obtained from the two-stage least squares model and the bivariate probit model. Finally, models that ignore the effect of unobserved heterogeneity failed to establish this relationship.

Included in

Economics Commons

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