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Family Structure and the Economic Wellbeing of Children

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Abstract

An extensive literature that examines the relationship between family structure and children’s outcomes consistently shows that living with a single parent is associated with negative outcomes. Few studies, however, directly test the relationship between family structure and outcomes for the child once he/she reaches adulthood. We directly examine, using the Panel Study of Income Dynamics, whether family structure during childhood is related to the child’s economic wellbeing both during childhood as well as adulthood. Our findings suggest that the economic wellbeing of children of mothers who experience a marital dissolution and remarry are no different from the children of mothers who are continuously married. However, the children of mothers whose marriages dissolve but who do not remarry experience large declines in their income over their first ten years of life. We also show that while the children of never married mothers earn a lot less as adults than the children of married parents, these differences can largely be explained by demographic and socioeconomic factors. Finally, our findings suggest that children who have mothers who experience a marital dissolution and who do not remarry have economic losses that persist into adulthood. Robustness checks using family fixed effects models support this result. Key Words: Family Structure JEL No. J12

Suggested Citation

  • Leonard Lopoo & Thomas DeLeire, 2012. "Family Structure and the Economic Wellbeing of Children," Center for Policy Research Working Papers 139, Center for Policy Research, Maxwell School, Syracuse University.
  • Handle: RePEc:max:cprwps:139
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Sara McLanahan, 1988. "Family structure and dependency: Early transitions to female household headship," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 25(1), pages 1-16, February.
    2. Gary S. Becker & Nigel Tomes, 1994. "Human Capital and the Rise and Fall of Families," NBER Chapters,in: Human Capital: A Theoretical and Empirical Analysis with Special Reference to Education (3rd Edition), pages 257-298 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. 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.
    4. Corak, Miles, 2001. "Death and Divorce: The Long-Term Consequences of Parental Loss on Adolescents," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 19(3), pages 682-715, July.
    5. Ribar, David C., 2004. "What Do Social Scientists Know About the Benefits of Marriage? A Review of Quantitative Methodologies," IZA Discussion Papers 998, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    6. Jonathan Gruber, 2004. "Is Making Divorce Easier Bad for Children? The Long-Run Implications of Unilateral Divorce," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 22(4), pages 799-834, October.
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    1. Family Structure and the Economic Wellbeing of Children
      by UDADISI in UDADISI on 2013-01-11 17:53:00

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • J12 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Marriage; Marital Dissolution; Family Structure

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