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Family structure and child outcomes: a high definition, wide angle “snapshot”

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  • Karen Conway

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  • Minghua Li

    ()

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    Abstract

    Using data from the National Survey of America’s Families (NSAF), this research investigates the relationships between a highly defined set of family structures and a broad set of child outcomes at a particular point in time in a child’s life. A detailed classification of family structures is constructed that clarifies key differences among various types of diverse families, and facilitates equivalencies testing and pairwise comparisons across nontraditional family structures. The NSAF contains a large number of observations for less common, but growing, family structures such as single-father families, grandparent-headed households and cohabiters, which makes such detailed analyses feasible and allows further stratification by child age, gender and race. The data also contains information on child behavioral, educational and physical health outcomes, as well as extensive household characteristics, economic resources and parental behaviors and inputs. Results suggest that differences across nontraditional family structures are particularly prominent for child health outcomes and that the gender of the resident parent is empirically important, more so than the presence of a cohabiting or married step-parent. Children in single father families have lesser access to health care yet enjoy better health outcomes than those in other families, even after controlling for economic resources (and inputs). In contrast, few differences are found between grandparent-headed families and other non-parent families. While we explore alternative explanations for these results, our cross-sectional data and complex set of family structure variables preclude isolating causal relationships; instead, our analyses yield empirically important distinctions that point to promising avenues for future research. Copyright Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2012

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    Bibliographic Info

    Article provided by Springer in its journal Review of Economics of the Household.

    Volume (Year): 10 (2012)
    Issue (Month): 3 (September)
    Pages: 345-374

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    Handle: RePEc:kap:reveho:v:10:y:2012:i:3:p:345-374

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    Web page: http://www.springerlink.com/link.asp?id=109451

    Related research

    Keywords: Family structure; Child health and development; Gender; I1; J12;

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    References

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    1. Jane Mauldon, 1990. "The effect of marital disruption on children’s health," Demography, Springer, vol. 27(3), pages 431-446, August.
    2. Kevin Lang & Jay L. Zagorsky, 2001. "Does Growing up with a Parent Absent Really Hurt?," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 36(2), pages 253-273.
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    12. R. A. Wojtkiewicz, . "Simplicity and complexity in the effects of parental structure on high school graduation," Institute for Research on Poverty Discussion Papers 993-93, University of Wisconsin Institute for Research on Poverty.
    13. Gorman, Bridget K. & Braverman, Jennifer, 2008. "Family structure differences in health care utilization among U.S. children," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 67(11), pages 1766-1775, December.
    14. Nancy Reichman & Hope Corman & Kelly Noonan, 2004. "Effects of child health on parents’ relationship status," Demography, Springer, vol. 41(3), pages 569-584, August.
    15. Naoko Akashi-Ronquest, 2009. "The impact of biological preferences on parental investments in children and step-children," Review of Economics of the Household, Springer, vol. 7(1), pages 59-81, March.
    16. Wei-Jun J. Yeung & Greg J. Duncan & Martha S. Hill, 2001. "Childhood family structure and young adult behaviors," Journal of Population Economics, Springer, vol. 14(2), pages 271-299.
    17. John F. Ermisch & Marco Francesconi, 2001. "Family structure and children's achievements," Journal of Population Economics, Springer, vol. 14(2), pages 249-270.
    18. Kristen Harknett, 2009. "Why are Children with Married Parents Healthier? The Case of Pediatric Asthma," Population Research and Policy Review, Springer, vol. 28(3), pages 347-365, June.
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    Cited by:
    1. Cobb-Clark, Deborah A. & Tekin, Erdal, 2011. "Fathers and Youth's Delinquent Behavior," IZA Discussion Papers 6042, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).

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