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Family Structure and Child Outcomes in the United States and Sweden

Author

Listed:
  • Björklund, Anders

    () (SOFI, Stockholm University)

  • Ginther, Donna K.

    () (University of Kansas)

  • Sundström, Marianne

    () (SOFI, Stockholm University)

Abstract

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.

Suggested Citation

  • Björklund, Anders & Ginther, Donna K. & Sundström, Marianne, 2004. "Family Structure and Child Outcomes in the United States and Sweden," IZA Discussion Papers 1259, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  • Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp1259
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Blog mentions

    As found by EconAcademics.org, the blog aggregator for Economics research:
    1. Less divorce: a good thing?
      by chris dillow in Stumbling and Mumbling on 2007-08-30 18:07:20
    2. Labour splits up families
      by chris dillow in Stumbling and Mumbling on 2007-08-23 15:27:24

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    Cited by:

    1. Frank W. Heiland & Shirley H. Liu, 2006. "Family structure and wellbeing of out-of-wedlock children," Demographic Research, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research, Rostock, Germany, vol. 15(4), pages 61-104, September.
    2. 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.
    3. Frank Heiland & Shirley H. Liu, 2005. "Family Structure and Wellbeing of Out-of-Wedlock Children: The Significance of the Biological Parents' Relationship," Working Papers 0612, University of Miami, Department of Economics, revised Sep 2006.
    4. Shirley H. Liu, 2007. "Is My Parents' Divorce to Blame for My Failure in Life? A joint Model of Child Educational Attainments and Parental Divorce," Working Papers 0610, University of Miami, Department of Economics.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    parental separation; family structure; educational attainment; child welfare;

    JEL classification:

    • J1 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics
    • J12 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Marriage; Marital Dissolution; Family Structure
    • I21 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Analysis of Education

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