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Family Structure and Child Outcomes in the United States and Sweden

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Author Info

  • Björklund, Anders

    ()
    (SOFI, Stockholm University)

  • Ginther, Donna K.

    ()
    (University of Kansas)

  • Sundström, Marianne

    ()
    (SOFI, Stockholm University)

Abstract

It is well known that children reared in non-intact families on average have less favorable educational outcomes than children reared in two-parent families. Evidence from the United States and Sweden indicates that living in a non-intact family is correlated with lower educational attainment. In this paper we compare the relationships between family structure and children’s outcomes in terms of educational attainment and earnings using data from Sweden and the United States. Comparing the United States and Sweden is interesting because both family structure and public policy environments in the two countries differ significantly. Family structure could potentially have a less negative effect in Sweden than in the United States because of the extensive social safety net provided by that country. We find, however, the associations between family structure and children’s outcomes to be remarkably similar in the United States and Sweden even though the policy and social environments differ between the two countries; living in a non-intact family is negatively related to child outcomes. This relationship is weakened when we control for other family characteristics, such as time lived with full and half siblings. In addition, when we use siblingdifference models to take account of unobserved family characteristics, the relationship is no longer statistically significant. Taken together, our results suggest that the true effect of family structure is more complex than the biological relationship of parents to children in both Sweden and the United States.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA) in its series IZA Discussion Papers with number 1259.

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Length: 25 pages
Date of creation: Aug 2004
Date of revision:
Publication status: published in: Journal of Population Economics, 2007, 20 (1), 183-201
Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp1259

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Keywords: parental separation; family structure; educational attainment; child welfare;

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References

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  1. John F. Ermisch & Marco Francesconi, 2001. "Family structure and children's achievements," Journal of Population Economics, Springer, Springer, vol. 14(2), pages 249-270.
  2. Donna K. Ginther & Robert A. Pollak, 2000. "Does family structure affect children's educational outcomes?," Working Paper, Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta 2000-13, Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta.
  3. Winkelmann, Rainer, 2003. "Parental Separation and Well-Being of Youths," IZA Discussion Papers 894, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  4. Roger Wojtkiewicz, 1993. "Simplicity and complexity in the effects of parental structure on high school graduation," Demography, Springer, Springer, vol. 30(4), pages 701-717, November.
  5. Behrman, Jere R & Rosenzweig, Mark R & Taubman, Paul, 1994. "Endowments and the Allocation of Schooling in the Family and in the Marriage Market: The Twins Experiment," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, University of Chicago Press, vol. 102(6), pages 1131-74, December.
  6. Gunnar Andersson, 2002. "Children's experience of family disruption and family formation: Evidence from 16 FFS countries," Demographic Research, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research, Rostock, Germany, vol. 7(7), pages 343-364, August.
  7. Painter, Gary & Levine, David I., 1999. "Family Structure and Youths' Outcomes: Which Correlations are Causal?," Institute for Research on Labor and Employment, Working Paper Series, Institute of Industrial Relations, UC Berkeley qt3g7899gz, Institute of Industrial Relations, UC Berkeley.
  8. 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.
  9. Manski, C.F. & Sandefur, G.D. & Mclanahan, S. & Powers, D., 1990. "Alternative Estimates Of The Effect Of Family Stucture During Adolescence On Hight School Graduation," Working papers, Wisconsin Madison - Social Systems 90-31, Wisconsin Madison - Social Systems.
  10. R. A. Wojtkiewicz, . "Simplicity and complexity in the effects of parental structure on high school graduation," Institute for Research on Poverty Discussion Papers, University of Wisconsin Institute for Research on Poverty 993-93, University of Wisconsin Institute for Research on Poverty.
  11. Jonathan Gruber, 2000. "Is Making Divorce Easier Bad for Children? The Long Run Implications of Unilateral Divorce," NBER Working Papers 7968, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  12. Scott Boggess, 1998. "Family structure, economic status, and educational attainment," Journal of Population Economics, Springer, Springer, vol. 11(2), pages 205-222.
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Blog mentions

As found by EconAcademics.org, the blog aggregator for Economics research:
  1. Less divorce: a good thing?
    by chris dillow in Stumbling and Mumbling on 2007-08-30 13:07:20
  2. Labour splits up families
    by chris dillow in Stumbling and Mumbling on 2007-08-23 10:27:24
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Cited by:
  1. Francesconi, Marco & Jenkins, Stephen P & Siedler, Thomas, 2005. "Childhood Family Structure and Schooling Outcomes: Evidence for Germany," CEPR Discussion Papers, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers 5362, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  2. Shirley H. Liu, 2007. "Is My Parents' Divorce to Blame for My Failure in Life? A joint Model of Child Educational Attainments and Parental Divorce," Working Papers, University of Miami, Department of Economics 0610, University of Miami, Department of Economics.
  3. Frank Heiland & Shirley H. Liu, 2005. "Family Structure and Wellbeing of Out-of-Wedlock Children: The Significance of the Biological Parents' Relationship," Working Papers, University of Miami, Department of Economics 0612, University of Miami, Department of Economics, revised Sep 2006.
  4. Frank Heiland & Shirley H. Liu, 2006. "Family structure and wellbeing of out-of-wedlock children," Demographic Research, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research, Rostock, Germany, vol. 15(4), pages 61-104, September.

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