More than 40 percent of children in the United States are born to parents who had their first child when they were young (under age 25). Many of these young parents work and participate in education to advance their career prospects and improve their families’ economic security. Managing those responsibilities is challenging, and parents may need support to succeed. In this report, we analyze data on young parents (people who had their first child between the ages 16 to 24) from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1997. We investigate the patterns of work and education young parents engage in from the birth of their first child until they are 30 years old. We find that a higher cumulative share of time spent combining work and education is associated with increased earnings at age 30 while time spent in neither work nor education (being “disconnected”) is associated with earnings decreases. Furthermore, initial characteristics of young parents (such as their demographic group or their education status when they had their first child) affect earnings at age 30, and economic disparities persist or become greater over time. We summarize possible approaches programs can take to engage and support young parents.
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