Journal of Population Economics

, Volume 14, Issue 2, pp 271-299

First online:

Childhood family structure and young adult behaviors

  • Martha S. HillAffiliated withInstitute for Social Research, University of Michigan, P.O. Box 1248 Ann Arbor, MI 48106-1248, USA (FAX: +1-734-647-4575; e-mail: hillm@umich.edu; jeany@umich.edu)
  • , Wei-Jun J. YeungAffiliated withInstitute for Social Research, University of Michigan, P.O. Box 1248 Ann Arbor, MI 48106-1248, USA (FAX: +1-734-647-4575; e-mail: hillm@umich.edu; jeany@umich.edu)
  • , Greg J. DuncanAffiliated withInstitute for Policy Research, Northwestern University, 2040 Sheridan Rd., Evanston, IL 60202, USA (FAX: 847-491-9916; e-mail: greg-duncan@nwu.edu)

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Abstract.

This paper examines a wide variety of forms, and full histories, of family structure to test existing theories of family influences and identify needs for new theories. The focus is on links between childhood family structure and both completed schooling and risk of a nonmarital birth. Using a 27-year span of panel (PSID) data for U.S. children, we find that: (a) change is stressful, (b) timing during childhood is relevant, (c) adults other than parents are important, and (d) two more recently studied family structures (mother-with-grandparent(s) and mother-with-stepfather) do not fit the molds of existing theories. The findings suggest that new theories should consider allocation of resources and reasons people group into family structures.

JEL classification: J12 J13 J16
Key words: Demographic economics marital dissolution family structure