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The Pregnant and Parenting Teen Study, conducted by Michaela Gulemetova-Swan of the University of Pennsylvania, Elizabeth N. Farley-Ripple of the University of Delaware, and Liza Herzog of the Philadelphia Education Fund, examines the impact of teen childbearing on graduation while accounting for the continuity of the students' education—that is, whether or not they drop out of school. The study was completed in 2008–2009 as part of Philadelphia's Project U-Turn.
The analysis tracked a cohort of young women from the time that they entered high school in the fall of 1996 until the end of the 2002–2003 school year using four data sources: the PELS survey, the School District of Philadelphia (District), Pennsylvania Department of Health, and the Philadelphia Neighborhood Information System.
In 2006, the teen birth rate in the United States rose for the first time since 1991, demanding renewed efforts to further examine and better understand the relationship between teen fertility and educational outcomes. This study builds on earlier studies of the relative timing of first birth, dropout, and high school completion by utilizing contemporary data in an urban context. Findings suggest that although teen childbearing presents a challenge to completing high school, dropping out is the critical event determining teens' likelihood of graduating.
The troubles that teen dropouts face are equally well documented. Compared with high school graduates, they are more likely to be unemployed, impoverished, unhealthy, or incarcerated. High school dropouts earn about half as much annual income as high school graduates and are more likely to have children at an early age, use drugs, alcohol or both, and be overweight. More disadvantaged than their peers, both before and after dropping out, these teens are generally unprepared for life's responsibilities and challenges. This is especially pronounced in urban populations, where dropout rates often equal or exceed graduation rates.
In summary, the results shed light on the impact of teen fertility on educational attainment. In particular, the findings point to the importance of dropping out and its relationship to teen childbearing, with implications for social policy and educational interventions. The evidence presented here frames the need for practices and policies that emphasize not only dropout prevention and recovery efforts, but also services that address pregnancy, parenting, and dropouts all together.