Better Late or Never? Parents' Union Dissolution and Children's Educational Achievement

Wendy Sigle-Rushton, London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE)
Torkild Hovde Lyngstad, University of Oslo
Patrick Andersen, University of Oslo

Using high quality data from Norwegian population registers, we examine the relationship between the timing of family disruption and children's educational achievement. Researchers addressing this issue have often compared children within families and used statistical methods to remove time-invariant sources of heterogeneity, using children's age at dissolution for identification. In models that do not control for birth order, we obtain a positive age gradient which is consistent with findings in much of the extant family structure literature. However, once we control for birth order, the age gradient reverses. Children who are older when they experience a parental dissolution tend to fare worse. Our results suggest that findings from the family structure literature that do not also take into account birth order effects could be misinterpreted as implying that delayed divorce benefits children.

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Presented in Session 166: Family Structure, Timing, and Child Well-being