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Does family structure affect children's educational outcomes?

  • Donna K. Ginther
  • Robert A. Pollak

In this paper we examine the effect of family structure on children’s educational outcomes by exploiting the sibling structure in the NLSY and NLSY-Child to control for unobserved heterogeneity across families and individuals. We also compare outcomes for children within the same family—stepchildren with their half-siblings in the same blended family who are the biological children of both parents. Using panel data methods to control for unobserved heterogeneity across families, we find that family structure effects are statistically insignificant. Finally, comparing half-siblings in our data, we find no difference in educational outcomes as a function of family structure. Our empirical results are consistent with at least two interpretations. First, they can be interpreted as evidence that estimates of family structure effects reflect selection rather than causation. Second, they can be interpreted as evidence that the presence of stepchildren disrupts families.

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Paper provided by Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta in its series FRB Atlanta Working Paper No. with number 2000-13.

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Date of creation: 2000
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Handle: RePEc:fip:fedawp:2000-13
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  13. Robert Haveman & Barbara Wolfe, 1995. "The Determinants of Children's Attainments: A Review of Methods and Findings," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 33(4), pages 1829-1878, December.
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  15. 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.
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  19. Antecol, Heather & Bedard, Kelly & Helland, Eric, 2001. "Does Single Parenthood Increase the Probability of Teenage Promiscuity, Drug Use, and Crime? Evidence from Divorce Law Changes," University of California at Santa Barbara, Economics Working Paper Series qt3fc7n20b, Department of Economics, UC Santa Barbara.
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  24. Robert J. Willis, 1999. "A Theory of Out-of-Wedlock Childbearing," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 107(S6), pages S33-S64, December.
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  26. Pollak, Robert A, 1969. "Conditional Demand Functions and Consumption Theory," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 83(1), pages 60-78, February.
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  29. Behrman, Jere R & Rosenzweig, Mark R & Taubman, Paul, 1994. "Endowments and the Allocation of Schooling in the Family and in the Marriage Market: The Twins Experiment," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 102(6), pages 1131-74, December.
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