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Family Structure and Child Outcomes in the United States and Sweden

  • Björklund, Anders

    ()

    (SOFI, Stockholm University)

  • Ginther, Donna K.

    ()

    (University of Kansas)

  • Sundström, Marianne

    ()

    (SOFI, Stockholm University)

It is well known that children reared in non-intact families on average have less favorable educational outcomes than children reared in two-parent families. Evidence from the United States and Sweden indicates that living in a non-intact family is correlated with lower educational attainment. In this paper we compare the relationships between family structure and children’s outcomes in terms of educational attainment and earnings using data from Sweden and the United States. Comparing the United States and Sweden is interesting because both family structure and public policy environments in the two countries differ significantly. Family structure could potentially have a less negative effect in Sweden than in the United States because of the extensive social safety net provided by that country. We find, however, the associations between family structure and children’s outcomes to be remarkably similar in the United States and Sweden even though the policy and social environments differ between the two countries; living in a non-intact family is negatively related to child outcomes. This relationship is weakened when we control for other family characteristics, such as time lived with full and half siblings. In addition, when we use siblingdifference models to take account of unobserved family characteristics, the relationship is no longer statistically significant. Taken together, our results suggest that the true effect of family structure is more complex than the biological relationship of parents to children in both Sweden and the United States.

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Paper provided by Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA) in its series IZA Discussion Papers with number 1259.

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Length: 25 pages
Date of creation: Aug 2004
Date of revision:
Publication status: published in: Journal of Population Economics, 2007, 20 (1), 183-201
Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp1259
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  1. Scott Boggess, 1998. "Family structure, economic status, and educational attainment," Journal of Population Economics, Springer, vol. 11(2), pages 205-222.
  2. Jonathan Gruber, 2000. "Is Making Divorce Easier Bad for Children? The Long Run Implications of Unilateral Divorce," NBER Working Papers 7968, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Donna K. Ginther & Robert A. Pollak, 2003. "Does Family Structure Affect Children's Educational Outcomes?," NBER Working Papers 9628, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. John F. Ermisch & Marco Francesconi, 2001. "Family structure and children's achievements," Journal of Population Economics, Springer, vol. 14(2), pages 249-270.
  5. Winkelmann, Rainer, 2003. "Parental Separation and Well-Being of Youths," IZA Discussion Papers 894, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  6. Kevin Lang & Jay L. Zagorsky, 2001. "Does Growing up with a Parent Absent Really Hurt?," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 36(2), pages 253-273.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. Roger Wojtkiewicz, 1993. "Simplicity and complexity in the effects of parental structure on high school graduation," Demography, Springer, vol. 30(4), pages 701-717, November.
  10. R. A. Wojtkiewicz, . "Simplicity and complexity in the effects of parental structure on high school graduation," Institute for Research on Poverty Discussion Papers 993-93, University of Wisconsin Institute for Research on Poverty.
  11. Gunnar Andersson, 2002. "Children's experience of family disruption and family formation: Evidence from 16 FFS countries," Demographic Research, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research, Rostock, Germany, vol. 7(7), pages 343-364, August.
  12. Manski, C.F. & Sandefur, G.D. & Mclanahan, S. & Powers, D., 1990. "Alternative Estimates Of The Effect Of Family Stucture During Adolescence On Hight School Graduation," Working papers 90-31, Wisconsin Madison - Social Systems.
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