, Volume 31, Issue 4, pp 575-584

Family structure, residential mobility, and school dropout: A research note

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Abstract

This paper examines the hypothesis that high levels of residential mobility among nonintact families account for part of the well-known association between living in a nonintact family and dropping out of high school. Children from single-parent families and stepfamilies are more likely than children from two-parent families to move during the school year. As much as 30% of the difference in the risk of dropping out between children from stepfamilies and children from intact families can be explained by differences in residential mobility. Previously, mechanisms explaining school failure on the part of children in nonintact families were more plausible for children in single-parent families than for children in stepfamilies; high levels of residential mobility apply to both groups of children. In addition, residential mobility lends itself to manipulation by public policy, with potentially remedial effects for vulnerable children. Earlier versions of this paper were presented at the 1990 meetings of the American Sociological Association, held in Washington DC, and at the 1991 meetings of the Eastern Sociological Society held in Providence. We are grateful to Andrew Cherlin, Melvin Kohn, Gary Sandefur, and several anonymous referees for their valuable comments, to Robert Davis for his computational assistance, and to Tobey H. Sohn and Teresa A. Withers for secretarial help. Support to the senior author was provided by the National Institute on Aging under Grant HD 19375-03 and by the W.T. Grant Faculty Scholars Award. Support for computing facilities was provided by a grant to the Hopkins Population Center (PD30 H006268-19). 1994 Population Association of America