Teen-age women who drop out of school to give birth are much worse off economically by the time they reach age 25 than women who dropped out because of pregnancy 20 years ago, new research shows.
But women who completed high school without getting pregnant are also worse off, though to a lesser degree, the researchers found.
The numbers of high school dropouts and teen-age mothers have not increased much over the past two decades, the researchers discovered, but the number of unwed teen-age mothers has grown dramatically.
"The last two decades have been a tough time to be young adults," said Saul D. Hoffman, a professor of economics at the University of Delaware who did the research with Greg J. Duncan of the University of Michigan.
In 1967, 80 percent of teen-age mothers were married, compared with only one-third of teen-age mothers now, Hoffman said. Ninety percent of births to black teen-agers are out of wedlock now.
Hoffman and Duncan, an economics professor and program director of the Institute for Social Research at the University of Michigan, wanted to see how women who had dropped out of high school to have babies were doing by age 25, when the middle-term effects of their teen-age "rule-breaking" would be apparent.
Between 1967 and 1972, they discovered, 25 percent of black women who had dropped out of high school to give birth were poor at age 25. Between 1980 and 1985, when the study ended, 48 percent of such women were poor at age 25. Among white teen-agers in 1967, only 6 percent who dropped out of high school and had children were poor at the age of 25. By 1985, the poverty figure for whites was 22 percent -- nearly quadruple what it had been, but still lower than the number for black women had been in 1967.
From 1967 to 1972, black women who dropped out of high school and had out-of-wedlock births as teen-agers had a family income of about $14,300 at age 25. From 1980 to 1985, the figure was $8,300.
For white women, the differences were smaller. Among whites who graduated from high school without an out-of-wedlock birth in their teens, the median family income at age 25 was $30,600 in 1967 to 1972 and $28,600 in 1980 to 1985.