The economics of natural mentoring relationships


Timpe, Zach & Lunkenheimer, E. (2014). The economics of natural mentoring relationships. 2014 Add Health Users Conference. Bethesda, MD.


Mentors have been shown to help improve psychological and educational outcomes of youth, and may also serve a greater role for youth experiencing risk in the home. In this study, using publicly available data from Waves I, III, and IV, we investigated the effects of natural during youth on income outcomes during early adulthood. We then examined the effects of mentors on youths' income outcomes based on environmental risk, in this case the absence of a father figure. We found little evidence that the presence of a mentor alone had a significant impact on annual earnings during adulthood; however, we did find evidence that the presence of a mentor, coupled with the absence of a father figure, significantly impacted future earnings. More specifically, youth without a father but who had a male mentor earned more, on average, than youth who had neither a father nor a male mentor. Additionally, these results were larger in magnitude and stronger in significance for a subsample of African American youth. The economic concept of Net Present Value was then used to generate an estimate of the lifetime economic benefits to having a mentor. We found the present value of total lifetime benefits to having a mentor for youth without a father to be approximately $130,000 in general, and $300,000 for African American youth. These findings suggest that natural mentors may foster skills in at-risk youth which result in increased earnings.


Reference Type

Conference proceeding

Book Title

2014 Add Health Users Conference


Timpe, Zach
Lunkenheimer, E.

Year Published


City of Publication

Bethesda, MD

Reference ID