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The Influence of Family Structure on Child Outcomes: Evidence for Ireland

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  • Carmel Hannan
  • Brendan Halpin

    (University of Limerick)

Abstract

A large body of international literature has documented a correlation between nontraditional family structure and poorer child outcomes, yet researchers continue to disagree as to whether the association represents a true causal effect. This article extends this literature by employing propensity score matching using the first wave of data from the Growing up in Ireland child cohort study. We argue that the Irish case is of particular interest given the highly selective nature of non-marriage. We find that, on average, non-marriage has negative effects on a child educational development at age 9 but the effects are smaller in relation to health outcomes and the child’s self-concept. However, selection effects account for a non-trivial proportion of the differences in child outcomes across lone-mother and cohabiting families although hidden bias remains an important issue. This has important implications for policies which promote marriage as the key to child development as it appears that much of the benefits of marriage are not related to marriage per se but to the socio-economic background of mothers.

Suggested Citation

  • Carmel Hannan & Brendan Halpin, 2014. "The Influence of Family Structure on Child Outcomes: Evidence for Ireland," The Economic and Social Review, Economic and Social Studies, vol. 45(1), pages 1-24.
  • Handle: RePEc:eso:journl:v:45:y:2014:i:1:p:1-24
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Marco Francesconi & Stephen P. Jenkins & Thomas Siedler, 2010. "The effect of lone motherhood on the smoking behavior of young adults," Health Economics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 19(11), pages 1377-1384.
    2. Fahey, Tony & Russell, Helen, 2001. "Family Formation in Ireland Trends, Data Needs and Implications: Report to Family Affairs Unit, Department of Social, Community and Family Affairs," Research Series, Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI), number PRS43.
    3. Gerfin, Michael & Lechner, Michael, 2001. "A Microeconometric Evaluation of Active Labour Market Policy in Switzerland," CEPR Discussion Papers 2993, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    4. repec:esr:resser:bkmnext202 is not listed on IDEAS
    5. Dohoon Lee, 2010. "The early socioeconomic effects of teenage childbearing," Demographic Research, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research, Rostock, Germany, vol. 23(25), pages 697-736, October.
    6. repec:esr:resser:bkmnext29 is not listed on IDEAS
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    Keywords

    family; children; Ireland;

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