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Parental Separation and Children's Educational Attainment: A Siblings Analysis on Swedish Register Data


  • Björklund, Anders

    () (Swedish Institute for Social Research, Stockholm University)

  • Sundström, Marianne

    () (Swedish Institute for Social Research, Stockholm University)


This article analyzes whether the commonly found negative relationship between parental separation in childhood and educational outcomes is causal or mainly due to selection. We use data on about 100,000 Swedish full biological siblings, born in 1948-63, and perform cross-section and sibling-difference estimations. Outcomes are measured as educational attainment in 1996. Our cross-section analysis show the expected negative and significant relationship, while the relationship is not significant, though precisely estimated, in the sibling-difference analysis. This finding was robust to the sensitivity tests performed and is consistent with selection, rather than causation, being the explanation for the negative relationship. JEL Classification: Keywords:

Suggested Citation

  • Björklund, Anders & Sundström, Marianne, 2004. "Parental Separation and Children's Educational Attainment: A Siblings Analysis on Swedish Register Data," Working Paper Series 4/2004, Stockholm University, Swedish Institute for Social Research.
  • Handle: RePEc:hhs:sofiwp:2004_004

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Anne Case & I-Fen Lin & Sara McLanahan, 2000. "Educational Attainment in Blended Families," NBER Working Papers 7874, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. 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;European Society for Population Economics, vol. 14(1), pages 137-172.
    3. Ermisch, John & Francesconi, Marco, 2001. "Family Matters: Impacts of Family Background on Educational Attainments," Economica, London School of Economics and Political Science, vol. 68(270), pages 137-156, May.
    4. Winkelmann, Rainer, 2003. "Parental Separation and Well-Being of Youths," IZA Discussion Papers 894, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    5. John F. Ermisch & Marco Francesconi, 2001. "Family structure and children's achievements," Journal of Population Economics, Springer;European Society for Population Economics, vol. 14(2), pages 249-270.
    6. Donna K. Ginther & Robert A. Pollak, 2000. "Does family structure affect children's educational outcomes?," FRB Atlanta Working Paper 2000-13, Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta.
    7. 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.
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    Cited by:

    1. Sundström, Marianne, 2013. "Growing up in a blended family or a stepfamily: What is the impact on education?," Working Paper Series 2/2013, Stockholm University, Swedish Institute for Social Research.
    2. Ian Walker & Yu Zhu, 2008. "Child Support and Educational Outcomes: Evidence from the British Household Panel Survey," Studies in Economics 0811, School of Economics, University of Kent.
    3. Boll, Christina & Hoffmann, Malte, 2015. "It's not all about parents' education, it also matters what they do: Parents' employment and children's school success in Germany," HWWI Research Papers 162, Hamburg Institute of International Economics (HWWI).
    4. Nekby, Lena & Özcan, Gülay, 2007. "Do Domestic Educations Even Out the Playing Field? Ethnic Labor Market Gaps in Sweden," SULCIS Working Papers 2007:3, Stockholm University, Linnaeus Center for Integration Studies - SULCIS.
    5. 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.
    6. Björklund, Anders, 2006. "Family Background and Outcomes Later in Life: A (Partial and Personal) Survey of Recent Research Using Swedish Register Data," Working Paper Series 4/2007, Stockholm University, Swedish Institute for Social Research.
    7. Chiara Pronzato & Arnstein Aassve, 2013. "Marital breakup and children's behavioural responses," CHILD Working Papers Series 12, Centre for Household, Income, Labour and Demographic Economics (CHILD) - CCA.
    8. Björklund, Anders & Lindahl, Lena & Lindquist, Matthew J., 2008. "What More Than Parental Income? An Exploration of What Swedish Siblings Get from Their Parents," IZA Discussion Papers 3735, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    9. Ori Zax, 2015. "Human Capital And The Probability Of Divorce," Bulletin of Economic Research, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 67(S1), pages 111-134, December.
    10. Helmut Rainer & Timo Hener & Thomas Siedler & Anita Fichtl, 2013. "Politische Sozialisation im Wandel? Zusammenhang von Familienstruktur und bürgerschaftlichem Engagement," ifo Schnelldienst, ifo Institute - Leibniz Institute for Economic Research at the University of Munich, vol. 66(17), pages 30-38, September.
    11. Frauke H. Peter & C. Katharina Spiess, 2011. "The Bigger the Children, the Bigger the Worries: Are Preschoolers and Adolescents Affected Differently by Family Instability with Regard to Non-cognitive Skills?," SOEPpapers on Multidisciplinary Panel Data Research 367, DIW Berlin, The German Socio-Economic Panel (SOEP).

    More about this item


    divorce; child welfare; siblings estimators;

    JEL classification:

    • I20 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - General
    • I30 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Welfare, Well-Being, and Poverty - - - General
    • J12 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Marriage; Marital Dissolution; Family Structure

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