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The Effects of Near and Actual Parental Divorce on Student Achievement and Misbehavior

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  • Mark L. Hoekstra
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    Abstract

    It is well-documented that children whose parents divorced experience worse outcomes than children from two-parent families. However, data and methodological limitations have made it difficult to know whether declines were evident prior to the divorce or whether the declines were due to the unobserved time-varying factors that caused the parents to file for divorce. This paper addresses these questions by linking public records on divorce to child-level data on reading and mathematics composite test scores and school discipline records. Difference-in-difference estimates reveal steady declines in achievement and steady increases in misbehavior after parental divorce relative to children from two-parent families. These declines capture the causal effect of parental divorce under the assumption that the only factor that changed the trajectories of children at the time of divorce was the parental divorce. However, I find similar negative trends in the performance of children whose parents filed for divorce but ultimately chose to remain married. This suggests that post-divorce declines in children’s performance are likely due to the factors that caused the parents to divorce rather than to the legal dissolution of marriage itself.

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    File URL: http://www.econ.pitt.edu/papers/Mark_divorce.pdf
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    Bibliographic Info

    Paper provided by University of Pittsburgh, Department of Economics in its series Working Papers with number 305.

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    Date of creation: May 2007
    Date of revision: Jan 2009
    Handle: RePEc:pit:wpaper:305

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    1. Susan M. Dynarski, 2003. "Does Aid Matter? Measuring the Effect of Student Aid on College Attendance and Completion," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 93(1), pages 279-288, March.
    2. Gordon B. Dahl & Enrico Moretti, 2004. "The Demand for Sons: Evidence from Divorce, Fertility, and Shotgun Marriage," NBER Working Papers 10281, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. 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 qt3g7899gz, Institute of Industrial Relations, UC Berkeley.
    4. John Bound, 1989. "The Health and Earnings of Rejected Disability Insurance Applicants," NBER Working Papers 2816, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    5. Jonathan Gruber, 2004. "Is Making Divorce Easier Bad for Children? The Long-Run Implications of Unilateral Divorce," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 22(4), pages 799-834, October.
    6. Stevenson, Betsey & Wolfers, Justin, 2003. "Bargaining in the Shadow of the Law: Divorce Laws and Family Distress," Research Papers 1828, Stanford University, Graduate School of Business.
    7. Corak, Miles, 2001. "Death and Divorce: The Long-Term Consequences of Parental Loss on Adolescents," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 19(3), pages 682-715, July.
    8. Sanz-de-Galdeano, Anna & Vuri, Daniela, 2004. "Does Parental Divorce Affect Adolescents' Cognitive Development? Evidence from Longitudinal Data," IZA Discussion Papers 1206, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    9. 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.
    10. Philip K. Robins & David H. Greenberg & Paul Fronstin, 2001. "Parental disruption and the labour market performance of children when they reach adulthood," Journal of Population Economics, Springer, vol. 14(1), pages 137-172.
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