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Increasing the school leaving age will decrease the number of teenage pregnancies

Posted on 08/04/2013

For the first time in over 40 years the compulsory school leaving age is being raised in a bid by the previous Labour government addressing concerns that too many young people are outside any form of work, education or training. As a result, research has indicated this will lead to a decline in the number of teenage pregnancies.

The research focuses on the last major reform on the mandatory school leaving age in 1972, where the school leaving age increased from 15 to 16 in England and Wales. Tanya Wilson, a PhD student in the Department of Economics at Royal Holloway, found that the change in the school leaving age led to a 7% decline in young women entering motherhood before the age of 20. This trend of decline was particularly high for those aged 16 or under, showing a 17% decrease on the incidence of motherhood.

Analysing the fertility decisions from a sample of 230,000 young women born between 1946 and 1984 the researcher concludes, by increasing the school leaving age by one year will result in an approximate delay of motherhood by more than one year as “it comes down to the fact that children have to stay at school longer under adult supervision and have less free time.”

The introduction of a new law this summer comes from the attempt by the previous Labour government to radically reduce to teenage pregnancy rate for those under 18 and to respond to the concerns that too many young people were outside the realms of education or work. Labour’s previous attempt to reduce teenage pregnancy did not reap the desired result, as between 1998-2008 the teenage conception rate in the UK fell by 13% as opposed to the 50% fall that Labour had aimed at achieving.

This research by Tanya Wilson was presented at the Royal Economics Society’s annual conference last week. The research also received coverage in a national newspaper and Tanya was interviewed by BBC Berkshire.  


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