Is Marriage Always Good for Children? Evidence from Families Affected by Incarceration
AbstractOne-third of children in the United States are born to unmarried parents. A substantial number of black and Hispanic children live with a never-married mother. Children of never-married mothers are more likely to drop out of high school, repeat grades, and have behavioral problems than are children raised in more traditional family structures. But these relationships may be driven by other factors that affect marital status at birth, post-conception marriage decisions, and later child outcomes, rather than causal effects of family structure. Given that changes in the availability of men in the marriage market should affect marriage decisions, we use incarceration rates for men as an instrumental variable for family structure in estimating the effect of never-married motherhood on the likelihood that children drop out of high school, focusing on blacks and Hispanics. Instrumental variables estimates suggest that unobserved factors rather than a causal effect drive the negative relationship between never-married motherhood and child outcomes for blacks and Hispanics, at least for the children of women whose marriage decisions are most affected by variation in incarceration rates for men. For Hispanics, in particular, we find evidence that these children may actually be better off living with a never-married mother.
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Bibliographic InfoPaper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 13928.
Date of creation: Apr 2008
Date of revision:
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Other versions of this item:
- Keith Finlay & David Neumark, 2010. "Is Marriage Always Good for Children?: Evidence from Families Affected by Incarceration," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 45(4), pages 1046-1088.
- I2 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education
- J12 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Marriage; Marital Dissolution; Family Structure
- J13 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Fertility; Family Planning; Child Care; Children; Youth
- J18 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Public Policy
This paper has been announced in the following NEP Reports:
- NEP-ALL-2008-04-15 (All new papers)
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- Wolfgang Frimmel & Martin Halla & Rudolf Winter-Ebmer, 2012.
"Can Pro-Marriage Policies Work? An Analysis of Marginal Marriages,"
Economics working papers
2012-09, Department of Economics, Johannes Kepler University Linz, Austria.
- Frimmel, Wolfgang & Halla, Martin & Winter-Ebmer, Rudolf, 2012. "Can Pro-Marriage Policies Work? An Analysis of Marginal Marriages," IZA Discussion Papers 6704, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
- Wolfgang Frimmel & Martin Halla & Rudolf Winter-Ebmer, 2012. "Can Pro-Marriage Policies Work? An Analysis of Marginal Marriages," NRN working papers 2012-07, The Austrian Center for Labor Economics and the Analysis of the Welfare State, Johannes Kepler University Linz, Austria.
- Frimmel, Wolfgang & Halla, Martin & Winter-Ebmer, Rudolf, 2012. "Can Pro-Marriage Policies Work? An Analysis of Marginal Marriages," CEPR Discussion Papers 9081, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
- Kasey S. Buckles, 2012. "Selection and the Marriage Premium for Infant Health," Working Papers 003, University of Notre Dame, Department of Economics, revised Jul 2012.
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