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Is Marriage Always Good for Children?: Evidence from Families Affected by Incarceration

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  • Keith Finlay
  • David Neumark

Abstract

Never-married motherhood is associated with worse educational outcomes for children. But this association may reflect other factors that also determine family structure, rather than causal effects. We use incarceration rates for men as instrumental variables in estimating the effect of never-married motherhood on the high school dropout rate of black and His-panic children. We find that unobserved factors drive the negative relationship between never-married motherhood and child education, at least for children of women whose marriage decisions are affected by incarceration of men. For Hispanics we find evidence that these children actually may be better off living with a never-married mother.

Suggested Citation

  • 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.
  • Handle: RePEc:uwp:jhriss:v:45:y:2010:i:4:p:1046-1088
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    3. Cygan-Rehm, Kamila & Kuehnle, Daniel & Riphahn, Regina T., 2018. "Paid parental leave and families’ living arrangements," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 53(C), pages 182-197.
    4. Huang, Chien-Chung & Postmus, Judy L. & Vikse, Juliann H. & Wang, Lih-Rong, 2013. "Economic abuse, physical violence, and union formation," Children and Youth Services Review, Elsevier, vol. 35(5), pages 780-786.
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    6. Moschion, Julie & van Ours, Jan C., 2019. "Do childhood experiences of parental separation lead to homelessness?," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 111(C), pages 211-236.
    7. Harris, Matthew C. & Cronin, Christopher J., 2017. "The effects of prospective mate quality on investments in healthy body weight among single women," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 24(C), pages 164-183.
    8. Wolfgang Frimmel & Martin Halla & Rudolf Winter-Ebmer, 2014. "Can Pro-Marriage Policies Work? An Analysis of Marginal Marriages," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 51(4), pages 1357-1379, August.
    9. Marco Francesconi & Stephen Jenkins & Thomas Siedler, 2010. "Childhood family structure and schooling outcomes: evidence for Germany," Journal of Population Economics, Springer;European Society for Population Economics, vol. 23(3), pages 1073-1103, June.
    10. Letizia Mencarini & Silvia Pasqua & Agnese Romiti, 2014. "Children’s time use and family structure in Italy," CHILD Working Papers Series 27, Centre for Household, Income, Labour and Demographic Economics (CHILD) - CCA.
    11. Wanchuan Lin & Kathryn McEvilly & Juan Pantano, 2016. "Obesity and sex ratios in the U.S," Review of Economics of the Household, Springer, vol. 14(2), pages 269-292, June.
    12. Kasey Buckles & Joseph Price, 2013. "Selection and the Marriage Premium for Infant Health," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 50(4), pages 1315-1339, August.
    13. Ayllón, Sara & Ferreira-Batista, Natalia N., 2015. "‘Mommy, I miss daddy’. The effect of family structure on children's health in Brazil," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 19(C), pages 75-89.
    14. Mariano Tommasi & María Edo & Agustina Thailinger, 2021. "Familia y desarrollo humano en el siglo XXI. Revisión de la literatura internacional y algunos apuntes para el caso argentino," Working Papers 152, Universidad de San Andres, Departamento de Economia, revised May 2021.
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    16. Carolina Arteaga, 2021. "Parental Incarceration and Children's Educational Attainment," Working Papers tecipa-703, University of Toronto, Department of Economics.
    17. Kamila Cygan-Rehm & Daniel Kühnle & Regina T. Riphahn, 2017. "Love your Leave, Don't Leave your Love! Paid Parental Leave and Children's Living Arrangements," CESifo Working Paper Series 6319, CESifo.
    18. Gloria Moroni, 2018. "Explaining Divorce Gaps in Cognitive and Noncognitive Skills of Children," Discussion Papers 18/16, Department of Economics, University of York.
    19. Robynn Cox & Sally Wallace, 2013. "The Impact of Incarceration on Food Insecurity among Households with Children," Working Papers 1448, Princeton University, School of Public and International Affairs, Center for Research on Child Wellbeing..
    20. Dimitrios Nikolaou, 2017. "Maternal Life Satisfaction, Marital Status, and Child Skill Formation," Eastern Economic Journal, Palgrave Macmillan;Eastern Economic Association, vol. 43(4), pages 621-648, September.
    21. Terry-Ann Craigie, 2008. "Effects of Paternal Presence and Family Stability on Child Cognitive Performance," Working Papers 1015, Princeton University, School of Public and International Affairs, Center for Research on Child Wellbeing..

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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • 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

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