Journal of Population Economics

, Volume 23, Issue 3, pp 1073–1103 | Cite as

Childhood family structure and schooling outcomes: evidence for Germany

  • Marco Francesconi
  • Stephen P. Jenkins
  • Thomas Siedler
Original Paper


We analyze the impact on schooling outcomes of growing up in a non-intact family in Germany. We find that this experience is associated with worse outcomes according to estimates from models that do not control for possible correlations between common unobserved determinants of family structure and educational performance. Evidence of adverse effects emerges also when endogeneity is accounted for. In such cases, however, the point estimates are typically smaller, and their confidence intervals are large enough to include zero, particularly for individuals who grew up in Western Germany.


Lone parenthood Educational success Sibling differences 

JEL Classification

C23 I21 J12 



Financial support from the Anglo-German Foundation, the UK Economic and Social Research Council, DIW Berlin, and the University of Essex is gratefully acknowledged. We wish to thank the Editor (Christian Dustmann) and two anonymous referees for guidance and helpful suggestions. We are also grateful to Anders Björklund, Miles Corak, Monica Costa Diaz, John Ermisch, Steve Machin, Anna Vignoles, and seminar participants at HM Treasury (London), the Departments for Work and Pension and for Education and Skills (London), Institute of Education, Institute for Fiscal Studies, University of Essex, the 2006 Royal Economic Society and ESPE Conferences, and the CEPR Conference on Economics of Education and Education Policy in Europe (Uppsala) for helpful comments.


  1. Amato PR (1993) Children’s adjustment to divorce: theories, hypotheses, and empirical support. J Marriage Fam 55(1):23–38CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Behrman JR, Rosenzweig MR, Taubman P (1994) Endowments and the allocation of schooling in the family and in the marriage market: the twins experiment. J Polit Econ 102(6):1131–1174CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Biblarz TJ, Gottainer G (2000) Family structure and children’s success: a comparison of widowed and divorced single–mother families. J Marriage Fam 62(2):533–548CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Björklund A, Sundström M (2006) Parental separation and children’s educational attainment: a sibling analysis on Swedish register data. Economica 73(292):605–624CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Björklund A, Ginther DK, Sundström M (2007) Family structure and child outcomes in the United States and Sweden. J Popul Econ 20(1):183–201CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Bohrhardt R (2000) Familienstruktur und Bildungserfolg. Zeitschrift für Erziehungswissenschaft 3(3):189–207CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Cameron SV, Heckman JJ (2001) The dynamics of educational attainment for black, Hispanic, and white males. J Polit Econ 109(3):455–499CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Case A, Lin IF, McLanahan S (2001) Educational attainment of siblings in stepfamilies. Evol Hum Behav 22(4):269–289CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Cherlin AJ, Kiernan KE, Chase-Lansdale L (1995) Parental divorce in childhood and demography outcomes in young adulthood. Demography 32(3):299–318CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Cherlin AJ, Furstenberg FF, Chase-Lansdale L, Kiernan KE, Robins PK, Morrison DR, Teitler JO (1991) Longitudinal studies of effects of divorce on children in Great Britain and the United States. Science 252 (5011):1386–1389CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Corak M (2001) Death and divorce: the long-term consequences of parental loss on adolescents. J Labor Econ 19(3):682–715CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Cunha F, Heckman JJ, Lochner L, Masterov DV (2006) Interpreting the evidence on life cycle skill formation. In: Hanushek E, Welch F (eds) Handbook of the economics of education, vol 1. Elsevier Science, AmsterdamGoogle Scholar
  13. Currie J, Tekin E (2006) Does child abuse cause crime? NBER Working Paper 12171, April, Cambridge MA, National Bureau of Economic ResearchGoogle Scholar
  14. Dustmann C (2004) Parental background, secondary school track choice, and wages. Oxf Econ Pap 56(2):209–230CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Elo IT, Preston SH (1996) Educational differentials in mortality: United States, 1979–1985. Soc Sci Med 42 (1):47–57CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Ermisch JF, Francesconi M (2001) Family structure and children’s achievements. J Popul Econ 14(2):249–270CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Ermisch JF, Francesconi M, Pevalin DJ (2004) Parental partnership and joblessness in childhood and their influence on young people’s outcomes. J R Stat Soc, A 167(1):69–101CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Finlay K, Neumark M (2008) Is marriage always good for children? Evidence from families affected by incarceration. NBER Working Paper 13928, Cambridge MA, National Bureau of Economic ResearchGoogle Scholar
  19. Francesconi M, Jenkins SP, Siedler T (2005) Childhood family structure and schooling outcomes: evidence for Germany. Working Paper 2005-22, Colchester, Institute for Social and Economic Research, University of EssexGoogle Scholar
  20. Frick, J (2007) SOEP-Monitor. Zeitreihen zur Entwicklung von Indikatoren zu zentralen Lebensbereichen. DIW Berlin, BerlinGoogle Scholar
  21. Gang IN, Zimmermann KF (2000) Is child like parent? Educational attainment and ethnic origin. J Hum Resour 35(3):550–569CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Garfinkel I, Rainwater L, Smeeding TM (2005) Equal opportunities for children: social welfare expenditures in the english-speaking countries and western Europe. Focus 23(3):16–23Google Scholar
  23. Gennetian L (2005) One or two parents? Half or step siblings? The effect of family structure on young children’s achievement. J Popul Econ 18(3):415–436CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Ginther DK, Pollak RA (2004) Family structure and children’s educational outcomes: blended families, stylized facts, and descriptive regressions. Demography 41(4):671–696CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Gruber J (2004) Is making divorce easier bad for children? The long-run implications of unilateral divorce. J Labor Econ 22(4):799–833CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Haisken-DeNew JP, Büchel F, Wagner GG (1997) Assimilation and other determinants of school attainment in Germany: Do immigrant children perform as well as Germans? Vierteljahreshefte zur Wirtschaftsforschung 66(1):169–179Google Scholar
  27. Hanushek EA (2002) Publicly provided education. In: Auerbach AJ, Feldstein M (eds) Handbook of public economics, vol 4. Elsevier Science, AmsterdamGoogle Scholar
  28. Haveman R, Wolfe B (1995) The determinants of children’s attainments: a review of methods and findings. J Econ Lit 33(4):1829–1878Google Scholar
  29. Heckman JJ, Vytlacil E (2004) Econometric evaluation of social programs. In: Heckman JJ, Leamer E (eds) Handbook of econometrics, vol 5. Elsevier Science, AmsterdamGoogle Scholar
  30. Iacovou M (2002) Regional differences in the transition to adulthood. Ann Am Acad Polit Soc Sci 580(3):40–70CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Jenkins SP, Schluter C (2002) The impact of family income during childhood on later-life attainment: evidence from Germany. Working paper 2002-20, Colchester, Institute for Social and Economic Research, University of EssexGoogle Scholar
  32. Jeschek W (2000) General education and vocational training in east Germany and participation in education. Q J Econ Res 69(2):295–316Google Scholar
  33. Jonsson JO, Gähler M (1997) Family dissolution, family reconstruction, and children’s educational careers: recent evidence for Sweden. Demography 34(2):277–293CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Lang K, Zagorsky JL (2001) Does growing up with a parent absent really hurt? J Hum Resour 36(2):253–273CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Lantz PM, House JS, Lepkowski JM, Williams DR, Mero RP, Chen J (1998) Socioeconomic factors, health behaviors, and mortality: results from a nationally representative prospective study of US adults. J Am Med Assoc 279(21):1703–1708CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Levine PB, Zimmerman DJ (2005) Children’s welfare exposure and subsequent development. J Public Econ 89(1):31–56CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Mahler P, Winkelmann R (2004) Single motherhood and (un)equal educational opportunities: evidence for Germany. IZA Discussion Paper 1391, Bonn, IZAGoogle Scholar
  38. Manski CF (1990) Nonparametric bounds on treatment effects. Am Econ Rev Pap Proc 80(2):319–323Google Scholar
  39. Manski CF, Sandefur GD, McLanahan S, Powers D (1992) Alternative estimates of the effect of family structure during adolescence on high school graduation. J Am Stat Assoc 87(417):25–37CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Marmot MG, Shipley MJ, Rose G (1984) Inequalities in death—specific explanations of a general pattern? The Lancet 323 (8384):1003–1006, MayCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Martiny D, Schwab D (2002) Grounds for divorce and maintenance between former spouses: Germany. Available at:
  42. Moffitt RA (2004) Introduction to the symposium on the econometrics of matching. Rev Econ Stat 86(1):1–3CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Page ME, Stevens AH (2004) The economic consequences of absent parents. J Hum Resour 39(1):80–107CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Painter G, Levine DI (2000) Family structure and youths’ outcomes: which correlations are causal? J Hum Resour 35(3):524–549CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Piketty T (2003) The impact of divorce on school performance: evidence from France, 1968–2002. CEPR Discussion Paper 4146, December, London, Centre for Economic Policy ResearchGoogle Scholar
  46. Pribesh S, Downey DB (1999) Why are residential and school moves associated with poor school performance? Demography 36(4):521–534CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Riphahn RT (2005) Are there diverging time trends in the educational attainment of nationals and second generation immigrants? J Econ Stat (Jahrbücher für Nationalökonomie und Statistik) 225(3):325–346Google Scholar
  48. Rosenbaum PR, Rubin DB (1985) Constructing a control group using multivariate matched sampling methods that incorporate the propensity score. Am Stat 39(1):33–38CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Rosenzweig MR, Wolpin KI (1995) Sisters, siblings, and mothers: the effect of teen-age childbearing on birth outcomes in a dynamic family model. Econometrica 63(2):303–326CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Ruhm CJ (2004) Parental employment and child cognitive development. J Hum Resour 39(1):155–192CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Sanz-de-Galdeano A, Vuri D (2007) Parental divorce and students’ performance: evidence from longitudinal data. Oxf Bull Econ Stat 69(3):321–338CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Sianesi B (2004) An evaluation of the Swedish system of active labor market programs in the 1990s. Rev Econ Stat 86(1):133–155CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Siedler T (2006) Family and politics: does parental unemployment cause right-wing extremism? IZA Discussion Paper 2411, Bonn, IZAGoogle Scholar
  54. Szydlik M (2000) Lebenslange Solidarität? Generationenbeziehungen zwischen erwachsenen Kindern und Eltern. Leske + Budrich, OpladenGoogle Scholar
  55. Wagner M (1997) Scheidung in Ost- und Westdeutschland. Zum Verhältnis von Ehestabilität und Sozialstruktur seit den 30er Jahren. Campus Verlag, FrankfurtGoogle Scholar
  56. Wojtkiewicz RA (1993) Simplicity and complexity in the effects of parental structure on high school graduation. Demography 30(4):701–717CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Zentrum für Umfragen, Methoden und Analysen (ZUMA) (2005) System of social indicators for the Federal Republic of Germany: key indicators 1950–2005. Available at: keyindicators.pdf

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Marco Francesconi
    • 1
  • Stephen P. Jenkins
    • 2
  • Thomas Siedler
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of EconomicsUniversity of EssexColchesterUK
  2. 2.Institute for Social and Economic ResearchUniversity of EssexColchesterUK
  3. 3.German Socio-Economic Panel Study, DIW BerlinBerlinGermany

Personalised recommendations