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The Impact of Divorce on School Performance: Evidence from France, 1968-2002

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  • Piketty, Thomas

Abstract

For given observable parental characteristics, children with divorced or separated parents tend to perform less well at school than children living with their two parents. This result has been used to argue that softening divorce legislation might be bad for children. This might, however, just reflect a selection effect: parents who decide to separate are presumably parents who fight with each other, etc., and it is unclear whether children growing up in a high-conflict, two-parent family are better off than children with separated parents. In this Paper, I develop two identification strategies suggesting that the selection hypothesis is indeed relevant. First, I look at the school performance of children a couple of years before their parents separate, and I show that they are doing as bad as children already living with only one of their parents. Next, I exploit the large increase in separation rates following the 1975 divorce law reform (as well as cross-regional variations in divorce rates) to show that the performance gap of single-parent children is a declining function of the separation rate, with an elasticity close to -1. Taken together, my results suggest that parental conflicts (rather than separation per se) are bad for children, and that the distribution of conflict intensity between couples has been fairly stable over time and was not significantly affected by the change in divorce law.

Suggested Citation

  • Piketty, Thomas, 2003. "The Impact of Divorce on School Performance: Evidence from France, 1968-2002," CEPR Discussion Papers 4146, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  • Handle: RePEc:cpr:ceprdp:4146
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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Anna Sanz-de-Galdeano & Daniela Vuri, 2007. "Parental Divorce and Students' Performance: Evidence from Longitudinal Data," Oxford Bulletin of Economics and Statistics, Department of Economics, University of Oxford, vol. 69(3), pages 321-338, June.
    2. Pieter A. Gautier & Michael Svarer & Coen N. Teulings, 2009. "Sin City? Why is the Divorce Rate Higher in Urban Areas?," Scandinavian Journal of Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 111(3), pages 439-456, September.
    3. 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.
    4. Anders Björklund & Marianne Sundström, 2006. "Parental Separation and Children's Educational Attainment: A Siblings Analysis on Swedish Register Data," Economica, London School of Economics and Political Science, vol. 73(292), pages 605-624, November.
    5. Ori Zax, 2015. "Human Capital And The Probability Of Divorce," Bulletin of Economic Research, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 67(S1), pages 111-134, December.
    6. Eugenio Proto & Daniel Sgroi & Andrew Oswald, 2012. "Are happiness and productivity lower among young people with newly-divorced parents? An experimental and econometric approach," Experimental Economics, Springer;Economic Science Association, vol. 15(1), pages 1-23, March.
    7. Anna Christina D'Addio, 2007. "Intergenerational Transmission of Disadvantage: Mobility or Immobility Across Generations?," OECD Social, Employment and Migration Working Papers 52, OECD Publishing.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    divorce; educational performance;

    JEL classification:

    • I38 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Welfare, Well-Being, and Poverty - - - Government Programs; Provision and Effects of Welfare Programs

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