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Will You Miss Me When I Am Gone? The Economic Consequences of Absent Parents


  • Marianne E. Page
  • Ann Huff Stevens


This paper examines the effects of family structure on the economic resources available to children, using family fixed-effects to control for unobservable characteristics of the family. The effects of divorce on the income and consumption of children born to two-parent households, and the effects of marriage on children born into single-parent households are both considered. In the long-run (six or more years after the most recent divorce) family income falls by 40 to 45% after divorce, and food consumption is reduced by 17%. Six or more years after the most recent marriage, income of children born to single parents rises by 50 to 57%, but there is no statistically significant increase in food consumption. These estimates are substantially less than the difference in income implied by cross-sectional comparisons of different family types. When income changes are measured according to time since the parents first divorce, there is substantial recovery in income, virtually all of which is explained by subsequent remarriages. Similarly, when we look at income several years after a parent's first marriage, the gain is 28 to 33%, reflecting the short-lived nature of many of these marriages.

Suggested Citation

  • Marianne E. Page & Ann Huff Stevens, 2002. "Will You Miss Me When I Am Gone? The Economic Consequences of Absent Parents," NBER Working Papers 8786, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:8786
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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Zeldes, Stephen P, 1989. "Consumption and Liquidity Constraints: An Empirical Investigation," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 97(2), pages 305-346, April.
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    3. Linda Waite, 1995. "Does marriage matter?," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 32(4), pages 483-507, November.
    4. Greg Duncan & Saul Hoffman, 1985. "A reconsideration of the economic consequences of marital dissolution," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 22(4), pages 485-497, November.
    5. Heckman, James J. & Lalonde, Robert J. & Smith, Jeffrey A., 1999. "The economics and econometrics of active labor market programs," Handbook of Labor Economics,in: O. Ashenfelter & D. Card (ed.), Handbook of Labor Economics, edition 1, volume 3, chapter 31, pages 1865-2097 Elsevier.
    6. Greg J. Duncan & Saul D. Hoffman, 1985. "Economic Consequences of Marital Instability," NBER Chapters,in: Horizontal Equity, Uncertainty, and Economic Well-Being, pages 427-470 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    7. Leora Friedberg, 1998. "Did Unilateral Divorce Raise Divorce Rates? Evidence from Panel Data," NBER Working Papers 6398, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    8. Mary Jo Bane & David T. Ellwood, 1986. "Slipping into and out of Poverty: The Dynamics of Spells," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 21(1), pages 1-23.
    9. 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.
    10. Kerwin Kofi Charles & Melvin Stephens, 2004. "Job Displacement, Disability, and Divorce," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 22(2), pages 489-522, April.
    11. Larry Bumpass & R. Raley, 1995. "Redefining single-parent families: Cohabitation and changing family reality," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 32(1), pages 97-109, February.
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    Cited by:

    1. Espen Bratberg & Øivind Anti Nilsen & Kjell Vaage, 2012. "Is Recipiency of Disability Pension Hereditary?," CESifo Working Paper Series 3796, CESifo Group Munich.
    2. Nicolas E Magud & Evridiki Tsounta, 2012. "To Cut or Not to Cut? That is the (Central Bank’s) Question In Search of the Neutral Interest Rate in Latin America," IMF Working Papers 12/243, International Monetary Fund.
    3. Mumcu, Ayse & Saglam, Ismail, 2006. "Marriage and Divorce in a Model of Matching," MPRA Paper 1907, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    4. Ayse Mumcu & Ismail Saglam, 2008. "Marriage Formation/Dissolution and Marital Distribution in a Two-Period Economic Model of Matching with Cooperative Bargaining," Journal of Artificial Societies and Social Simulation, Journal of Artificial Societies and Social Simulation, vol. 11(4), pages 1-3.

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    JEL classification:

    • I3 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Welfare, Well-Being, and Poverty
    • J3 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Wages, Compensation, and Labor Costs

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