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Is Divorce Really Bad for Children? November 25, 2008 ECON 429: Professor Horlacher Jessica Clayton Increasing Divorce Rates Beginning in the 1960’s - 200% increase in the rate of divorce. Results in a change of family structure. By 1998, only 68% of children lived with two parents. Now a minority. What does this mean for children? Economic Impacts Family structure consequential on economic earnings and well-being of a family. Divorce correlated with an immediate decrease in average family income by 41%. Median Incomes: - $60,296- two-parent family with kids - $22,428- female-headed family Demonstrated by a 16% decrease in consumption. Initial Impacts on Children Lower educational attainment: worse test scores, higher dropout rates, and decreased college entrance numbers. Increased likelihood of being arrested. Among females, increased chances of becoming pregnant at a young age. Disadvantage for the growth of human capital. Long-Run Impacts on Children Decreased economic potential: -men from intact families- $20,769/yr -men from divorced families- $17,721/yr -women/intact - $16,148/yr -women/divorced - $14,185 Tendency to put off marriage. Increased likelihood of separation or divorce. The Case of the Stepchild and Children of Bereaved Families 1/2 of all children of divorce will eventually live with a step-parent: two-adult household, minus biological parent. Most turmoil from the ‘relationship quality.’ Stepchild outcomes parallel those of divorced children: better than with one parent, worse than with two biological parents. Bereaved children- do not demonstrate the negative trends. Bereavement means loss of a parent due to an exogenous rather than an endogenous factor. Theories Lack of the presence of a biological parent. Economic impact: decreased financial resources Family class origination. Resource impact: lower overall resources to put into the child’s development. Lack of Biological Parent Kids need their biological parents. Did not pan out with statistical evidence: neither stepchildren nor children of bereaved families, who both lose a biological parent, experience the problems to the same extent. Economic Impact A shift from two salaries to one means fewer resources. However, in the case of the step-child, there is an added income, but the impacts persist. Statistically, divorced families tend to come from lower classes initially. Family Class Origination Trend: Families who go through divorce have a higher tendency to be from lower classes. Children born out of wedlock tend to come from parents with lower education and with a higher likelihood of being black. On the other hand, two-parent families are correlated with being white, male, and speaking English at home. The disadvantages may come from sources outside of divorce. Overall Resource Impact Single-parent families also have less time, fewer role models of the opposite sex, and smaller social networks. Each parent has the ability to invest effort into their child: ability decreases with constraints that come from divorce. Maybe explains stepchildren vs. bereaved children. Making Divorce Easier In 1970’s laws changed from multilateral to unilateral. Makes it easier on parents, same effects seen in children. Resulted in increased divorce rates. Means more kids living in divorced families, which correlates with negative impacts. Ways to Help Recoup lost finances: through remarriage or increased labor participation. Remarriage: the earlier the better, but never fully fixes the issue. Labor Participation: shows a correlation with a lesser decrease in educational attainment. Problems could be bigger still if families do not attempt to work with the problem. Conclusion Divorce correlates with several negative outcomes in children. Public policy must attempt to alleviate the effects. Lightened-limits on welfare would aid single- parent families. Increased policies mandating payment of child support. Need to help parent’s disadvantages to help the children.
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