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One or two parents? Half or step siblings? The effect of family structure on young children's achievement

Abstract

Do children who live with both biological parents fare better than children in other types of family structures? Does the presence of step or half-siblings affect child well-being? This study examines the effect of family structure on young children's achievement addressing two sources of potential bias: (1) misclassification of blended families and (2) the omission of within-family and individual time-invariant unobserved characteristics. The results show that family structure, when defined using traditional classifications, has little effect on young children's achievement test scores. When the definition of family type is expanded, living in a blended family and living in some types of single mother families, appears to have a small, unfavorable relationship with children's achievement.

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Correspondence to Lisa A. Gennetian.

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This research was completed as part of a Ph.D. dissertation while the author was at Cornell University. Many thanks to Deborah Anderson, Donna Ginther, H. Elizabeth Peters, John Abowd, Robert Frank, Robert Pollak, Ramsey Shehadeh, the Cornell University Labor Economics seminar participants and two patient anonymous referees for their interest and helpful suggestions. All errors are the sole responsibility of the author.

Responsible editor: Christoph M. Schmidt.

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Gennetian, L.A. One or two parents? Half or step siblings? The effect of family structure on young children's achievement. J Popul Econ 18, 415–436 (2005). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00148-004-0215-0

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JEL classification

  • J12
  • J13

Keywords

  • Family structure
  • children