A research project by a student in the University of Warwick’s Department of Economics has found that one of biggest educational problems for many teenage mothers is that many of them are shut out of the professional qualifications market.
The research by Economics student Eleni Skaliotis compared data from 1,293 women held in the National Child Development Study database. As one might expect she found that women who had given birth before 18 were less likely than other women to have had an opportunity to earn a degree (only 2.7% of the women who first gave birth before 18 had a degree as opposed to 12% of women who first gave birth when aged 20-33).
However her research showed that although teenage mothers are less likely to obtain a degree, they are keen to obtain higher qualifications. In fact they had benefited more from higher vocational qualifications than other women. She found that 13.5% of the women who first gave birth before 18 had a higher vocational qualification such as an ONC/OND/HNC/HND but only 9.5% of women who first gave birth when aged 20-33 had such a qualification.
However despite this eagerness to obtain vocational qualifications Eleni also found that many teenage mothers were effectively excluded from the vast array of medium or professional vocational qualifications such as RSA, nursing qualifications , City and Guilds etc. Only 18.9% of women who first gave birth before 18 had such a professional qualification whereas 41.7% of women who first gave birth when aged 20-33 were so qualified.
Eleni believes the lack of professional vocational qualifications amongst women who first gave birth before 18 is a result of the exclusion of many of these women from large commercial and public sector employers. There are more opportunities to undertake such qualifications in larger employers than there are in the smaller firms and organisations where these women tend to be concentrated. The research shows that teenage mothers do have an appetite for vocational qualifications - it is only their lack of access to large employers where they are most often on offer that hinders them from getting them.
This exclusion from professional qualifications no doubt plays a significant role in another of Eleni findings - that women who first gave birth before 18 earn up to 27% less than other women.