Maternal Employment, Migration, and Child Development

47 Pages Posted: 3 Jun 2004

See all articles by Haiyong Liu

Haiyong Liu

East Carolina University - Department of Economics

Thomas A. Mroz

Department of Economics, Andrew Young School of Policy Studies

Wilbert van der Klaauw

Federal Reserve Bank of New York; IZA

Date Written: May 2004


In this paper we analyze the roles and interrelationships between school inputs and parental inputs in affecting child outcomes in the U.S. We investigate the interactions among and endogeneity of these inputs in the production of child outcomes by specifying and estimating a behavioral model of parent's decisions that can affect these outcomes. We focus on two important dimensions of school and parental input decisions: the parents' choice of which school attendance area to live in, and the mother's decision to work as a proxy for maternal time directly devoted to child education. Parents receive utility from consumption, leisure, and the child's achievement and they maximize expected utility. In making location and employment decisions, parents take into account the distribution of impacts of these decisions on their child's educational development, modeled through a production function for child outcomes. The environment in which these decisions are made is characterized by uncertain future wages and job prospects for both parents, and uncertainty in the child's future educational outcomes. Besides school quality, residential location decisions are influenced by local labor market conditions, housing and moving costs and geographic preferences. Using data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth, we integrate information on household migration, maternal employment decisions, and parental wage rates with observations on child outcomes over a 13-year period. Our statistical model follows directly from the theoretical framework. We relax many functional form assumptions that have been imposed by previous researchers who have studied how parents and schools can affect a child's development. Estimating the educational production function as part of a structural model provides significantly different estimates of the production process. The impacts of the school district characteristics diminish by factors of 2 to 4 after controlling for the fact that families may be choosing where to live because of the school district characteristics and labor market opportunities. We also find that the impacts on child outcomes of having moved and working full-time (as opposed to not working) to change signs and remain statistically significant after controlling for the possible endogeneity of these decisions. When we turn to the estimates of the overall effects of changes in characteristics on child outcomes, a somewhat different story emerges. Since parents can re-optimize by choosing different school districts and hours of work, many of the benefits to students from changing school district characteristics end up having only minor impacts on the child test scores.

Keywords: Child development, family migration, maternal labor supply

JEL Classification: J13, J22, O15

Suggested Citation

Liu, Haiyong and Mroz, Thomas A. and van der Klaauw, H. Wilbert, Maternal Employment, Migration, and Child Development (May 2004). Available at SSRN: or

Haiyong Liu (Contact Author)

East Carolina University - Department of Economics ( email )

Brewster Building
Greenville, NC 27858
United States

Thomas A. Mroz

Department of Economics, Andrew Young School of Policy Studies ( email )

P.O. Box 3992
Atlanta, GA 30302-3992
United States

H. Wilbert Van der Klaauw

Federal Reserve Bank of New York ( email )

33 Liberty Street
New York, NY 10045
United States
212-720-5916 (Phone)
212-720-1844 (Fax)

IZA ( email )

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